Wolfowitz Seeks Flexibility in Security Assistance Spending
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2004 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asked a House appropriations subcommittee here today for more flexibility in how funding for security assistance programs in Iraq is spent.
The focus of the hearing before the Foreign Operations Subcommittee was on the Bush administration's fiscal 2005 budget request for security assistance.
Wolfowitz used part of his opening statement to explain how elaborate rules for contracting have made it difficult to get equipment into the hands of Iraqi forces.
He said Congress has given the Pentagon that flexibility in the past, but would like it extended particularly beyond the Iraqi army, and in limited amounts to the Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
"We have military units who are fighting side by side with Iraqi units, and because of many of the elaborate rules that are appropriate in peacetime for contracting, it is very difficult for them to get the kind of equipment into the hands of their Iraqi comrades that we can freely get for our American forces."
The deputy secretary also answered criticism that the Pentagon had taken control of security assistance spending from the State Department, which normally controls such function.
Wolfowitz, who testified alongside Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, refuted that theory. He said Defense and State are "united in a common interest in success in Iraq, and we've got to figure out the flexible ways to do that."
Getting the job done is what's important, Wolfowitz told the lawmakers. "The goal in Iraq is to produce for the American people and the American men and women who are in harm's way," he said. "It is not to fight over departmental prerogatives. And I hope it can be taken in the spirit, not of DoD trying to take over security assistance; we are not." Any new authority on the Pentagon's part would be subject to concurrence of the State Department, he added.
Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, House Appropriations Committee chairman, pointed out that the entire foreign assistance emergency supplemental funding package of $18.4 billion has been largely programmed and managed by DoD through the Coalition Provisional Authority. Wolfowitz said the issue that needs to be addressed is not the allocations between civilian and military or State and Defense, but rather between Baghdad and Iraq's provinces.
"Very often the substantial presence in those provinces is because our circumstance are military," he explained.
Wolfowitz also addressed questions as to whether DoD, by controlling priorities, was devoting huge sums of money to infrastructure projects that yielded few visible signs of reconstruction efforts.
New York Rep. Nita Lowey said such efforts leave "many Iraqis with the impression that the United States is doing nothing to improve their daily lives." Kolbe said only $2.24 billion of the $18.4 billion has been obligated; "even less has been expended."
Wolfowitz testified that progress was being made in Iraq, and that of the money obligated already, most was spent on security, electricity and democracy building. He said the pace of allocations will increase substantially over the coming months, adding that another $6.4 billion is already committed and that he expects that money to move "fairly quickly."
Kolbe said in his opening statement that he had "very serious" concerns about the pace of assistance funding in Iraq, and the management of those funds. He asked Wolfowitz for assurances that the Pentagon is "fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility" to the taxpayers and troops who are relying on a successful implementation of the program. He also asked that the Pentagon take aggressive steps to expedite foreign assistance activities.
Wolfowitz said the Pentagon is reviewing the contracting process to see how more of the $18 billion supplemental might be spent.
He told the committee the Pentagon shares its concern about the importance of "getting money out in the field." Nonmilitary projects are just as important to winning the war as military operations, he added. "It is critical that we sustain the support of the Iraqi people," Wolfowitz said.
He cited progress in restoring electricity, in school construction and in the health care sector, but emphasized the importance of security. "Unless there's security," Wolfowitz said, "all of the other progress doesn't matter."