USOCO Proposal Rolls On, With Support From Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR), released a new report this morning showing a surprising amount of waste on a key reconstruction project in Iraq: rebuilding Baghdad’s looted Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While the tomb has been “significantly improved by the renovation project,” Bowen’s team of investigators found, the lack of oversight on the contract was so acute that SIGIR couldn’t find “payment documentation and quality assurance reports.” It’s an all-too-familiar story for SIGIR. That’s why, as a remedy, Bowen last fall proposed the creation of a new operational agency to coordinate civilian and military activities in failing states or complex conflict zones called the U.S. Office of Contingency Operations, or USOCO. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Report comes in advance of SIGIR’s next quarterly report for Congress, due January 30, and you can expect Bowen will highlight his latest waste, fraud and abuse findings for legislators to underscore the urgent need to stand USOCO up.
That proposal may be controversial in some circles — particularly in areas the development community, where there’s concern that USOCO might represent a more cumbersome bureaucratic structure. But Bowen’s idea is attracting some powerful allies, like the widely admired former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. “I do support the concept,” Crocker, the incoming dean of the George Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University, emailed me. “The current situation requires a perpetual reinventing of wheels and a huge amount of effort by those trying to manage contingencies.”