Congress has appropriated more than $20 billion since April 2003 to support rebuilding efforts in Iraq. This complex undertaking, which is occurring in an unstable security environment and under significant time constraints, is being carried out largely through contracts with private-sector companies. As of September 2003, agencies had obligated nearly $3.7 billion on 100 contracts or task orders under existing contracts. Given widespread congressional interest in ensuring that reconstruction contracts are awarded properly and administered effectively, GAO reviewed 25 contract actions that represented about 97 percent of the obligated funds. GAO determined whether agencies had complied with competition requirements in awarding new contracts and issuing task orders and evaluated agencies' initial efforts in carrying out contract administration tasks.
Agencies used sole-source or limited competition approaches to issue new reconstruction contracts, and when doing so, generally complied with applicable laws and regulations. Agencies did not, however, always comply with requirements when issuing task orders under existing contracts. For new contracts, the law generally requires the use of full and open competition, where all responsible prospective contractors are allowed to compete, but permits sole-source or limited competition awards in specified circumstances, such as when only one source is available or to meet urgent requirements. All of the 14 new contracts GAO examined were awarded without full and open competition, but each involved circumstances that the law recognizes as permitting such awards. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers properly awarded a sole-source contract for rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure to the only contractor that was determined to be in a position to provide the services within the required time frame. The Corps documented the rationale in a written justification, which was approved by the appropriate official. The U.S. Agency for International Development properly awarded seven contracts using limited competition. The Department of State, however, justified the use of limited competition by citing an authority that may not be a recognized exception to competition requirements, although a recognized exception could have been used. There was a lesser degree of compliance when agencies issued 11 task orders under existing contracts. Task orders are deemed by law to satisfy competition requirements if they are within the scope, period of performance, and maximum value of a properly awarded underlying contract. GAO found several instances where contracting officers issued task orders for work that was not within the scope of the underlying contracts. For example, to obtain media development services and various subject matter experts, the Defense Contracting Command-Washington placed two orders using a management improvement contract awarded under the General Services Administration's schedule program. But neither of the two orders involved management improvement activities. Work under these and other orders should have been awarded using competitive procedures or, due to the exigent circumstances, supported by a justification for other than full and open competition. The agencies encountered various contract administration challenges during the early stages of the reconstruction effort, stemming in part from inadequate staffing, lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, changing requirements, and security constraints. While some of these issues have been addressed, staffing and security remain major concerns. Additionally, the Army and its contractors have yet to agree on key terms and conditions, including the projected cost, on nearly $1.8 billion worth of reconstruction work that either has been completed or is well under way. Until contract terms are defined, cost risks for the government remain and contract cost control incentives are likely to be less effective.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Army||To ensure that task orders issued to rebuild Iraq comply with applicable requirements, and to maximize incentives for the contractors to ensure effective cost control, the Secretary of the Army should review the out-of-scope task orders for Iraqi media and subject matter experts issued by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington and take any necessary remedial actions.|
|Department of the Army||To ensure that task orders issued to rebuild Iraq comply with applicable requirements, and to maximize incentives for the contractors to ensure effective cost control, the Secretary of the Army should ensure that any future task orders under the LOGCAP contract for Iraq reconstruction activities are within the scope of that contract.|
|Department of the Army||To ensure that task orders issued to rebuild Iraq comply with applicable requirements, and to maximize incentives for the contractors to ensure effective cost control, the Secretary of the Army should address and resolve all outstanding issues in connection with the pending Justifications and Approvals for the contracts and related task orders used by the Army Corps of Engineers to restore Iraq's electricity infrastructure.|
|Department of the Army||To ensure that task orders issued to rebuild Iraq comply with applicable requirements, and to maximize incentives for the contractors to ensure effective cost control, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Commanding General, Army Field Support Command, and the Commanding General and Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to definitize outstanding contracts and task orders as soon as possible.|
|Department of Defense||To improve the delivery of acquisition support in future operations, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, should evaluate the lessons learned in Iraq and develop a strategy for assuring that adequate acquisition staff and other resources can be made available in a timely manner.|