Iraqi Rebuilding Contracts Proceeding Well, Nash Reports
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 10, 2004 Iraq's reconstruction is proceeding smoothly and on schedule, the U.S. head of reconstruction in Iraq told Pentagon reporters today.
Retired Navy Rear Adm. David J. Nash said the $18.4 billion aid package approved by Congress last fall rapidly is translating into tangible, on-the- ground improvements in Iraq's infrastructure, internal security and services.
"Work is moving along very nicely. We have construction under way, although we are just beginning. There is more to follow," he said. "I'm very pleased at our progress, and am looking forward to delivering on a promise."
Seven project management support contracts are expected to be awarded later today. Another 10 construction contracts for services including electricity, water, transportation and communications are expected to be awarded within the next couple of weeks. Collectively, these contracts will represent an estimated $5 billion in funding.
Nash told the American Forces Press Service March 9 that those involved in the rebuilding process from the contract awarding and oversight to the work itself recognize that "time is of the essence" in carrying out the mandate behind the U.S. aid package.
"The people of Iraq need their infrastructure reconstructed so they can get their lives to some sort of normal level," Nash said.
But despite the desire for speed, Nash stressed that no shortcuts are being taken to sidestep Congress's requirements for spending the Iraqi aid package.
Nash said the reconstruction team's approach for awarding and overseeing the contracts "is sound and complies with the legislation -- legislation he said "is very specific about the need for full and open competition and transparency in the process."
An improved Army Corps of Engineers accounting system helps track the money, and input from federal acquisition professionals throughout the country ensures the proper selection of contractors, he said.
Also, Nash said, the staff is using proven commercial, off-the-shelf software to manage and track 2,300 construction projects and several hundred line items of goods and services being purchased.
Oversight is a critical part of the contract process, Nash said, with staff from the Defense Contract Audit Agency on the ground in Iraq and a new inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority and his staff "mobilizing as we speak." Nash said he expects auditors from the General Accounting Office and other offices to participate as well.
"So there will be no shortage of adequate oversight," he said. "We ought to have whatever oversight is required to make people feel comfortable that the right things are being done. In fact, I welcome it, because it is only going to improve the quality of what we do."
Nash said intensive oversight will help ensure the contracting process remains open to full and open competition.
"In the process that we have put together, there is no favoritism," he said. "What we will rely on are the ethics of the people who are running this and the tremendous amount of oversight we have. Everything is (subject to) full and open competition, and everything is transparent."
He called the Army's termination of a contract to equip the new Iraqi Army based on protests from other contractors and the Army's own internal review proof that "the system is working as it should." Army Materiel Command is expected to re-bid the contract soon.
Nash said he is confident the contracting process will continue to proceed on track and that Iraq soon will begin enjoying the new infrastructure, security and other services being funded through U.S. reconstruction funds.
"I think it won't be long until you find a lot of satisfied customers in Iraq," he said. "And that is what we set out to do."