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Friday, December 15, 2006

U.S. Military Behind Its Goals In Rebuilding Iraq

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has made some progress in restoring Iraq's essential services, but it has not met program goals and estimates that it will not complete the remainder of its work until mid- to late 2008, according to an audit by a government watchdog agency.

While financial data show that DOD has obligated 97 percent of its $13.5 billion fiscal year 2004 reconstruction funds, work-in-place data show that about 29 percent, or $2.3 billion, of DOD’s planned construction activities valued at $8 billion are incomplete, as of October 8, says the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress.

Of the $18.4 billion that Congress appropriated for Iraq relief and reconstruction in fiscal year 2004, the DOD received the largest share— $13.5 billion.

Among the many contracts DOD uses in Iraq, DOD has obligated about $3.7 billion for 12 large-scale, multiple-year design-build contracts for major construction projects. The design-build contracting approach makes one award for both the design and construction of a project, thus eliminating the need for a separate bidding process for the construction phase, GAO says.

GAO earlier reported little was known about how U.S. efforts were improving the amount and quality of water reaching Iraqi households or their access to the sanitation services. Reported output measures overestimated the amount of potable water reaching Iraqi households because U.S. officials estimate that 60 percent of water treatment output is lost due to leakage, contamination, and illegal connections.

The U.S. mission in Iraq reported in December 2005 that it had developed a set of metrics to better estimate the potential impact that U.S. water and sanitation reconstruction efforts were having on Iraqi households. However, it acknowledges that it is difficult to measure how much water the Iraqis actually receive or whether the water is potable. The mission report notes that, without such comprehensive data, mission efforts to accurately assess the impact of U.S. reconstruction efforts on water and sanitation services are limited, GAO says.

In addition, overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated since June 2003, as evidenced by attack trends, growing sectarian violence, and the growth and influence of militias. Enemy-initiated attacks against the U.S.-led coalition, its Iraqi partners, and infrastructure have continued to increase over time, complicating efforts to rebuild and restore essential services. Overall, attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005. After declining in the fall of 2005, the number of attacks rose to the highest level ever in July 2006, GAO says.

GAO says it conducted its review from November 2005 to December 2006 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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