Lost in the newscycle last week was a bit of significant news out of Afghanistan that represents a major feather in my Senator’s cap. Claire McCaskill has been tireless on the issue of bringing military contractors to heel, and part of that task involved leveling her gaze — and her considerable skills as a prosecutor — at Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and making him squirm.
She was effective at it, too. I’m sure her words were ringing in his ears as he blamed everything from lack of funding to unfilled staff positions before finally firing two underlings in an attempt to save his own ass.
His resistance was futile. On Monday he did what Claire had called on him months before to do…he resigned.
The embattled top watchdog of U.S. contracting in Afghanistan announced Monday that he’s resigning days after vowing to resist congressional demands to step down.
Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, offered no explanation for his decision to leave. His resignation becomes official at the beginning of next month.
“I depart confident in the knowledge that SIGAR is positioned to provide essential support to the president’s strategy,” he said.
Fields’ resignation leaves vacant a key post in the Obama administration’s push for bringing greater accountability to U.S. contracting in Afghanistan.
McClatchy reported in November that over the past three years, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Afghanistan have failed, face serious delays or resulted in subpar work, costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and hobbling U.S. efforts to stabilize the country.
Four senators accused Fields’ office of doing a poor job of scrutinizing how $56 billion in reconstruction money is being spent in the war-torn nation. The senators demanded Fields’ resignation in a letter to President Barack Obama late last year.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairs a Senate contracting oversight subcommittee that has looked into the contracting issues in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“With billions of dollars being spent in Afghanistan, our country must have top notch leadership at the agency responsible for rooting out the waste and fraud that can jeopardize our efforts,” she said, adding of Fields, “I hope that his departure will allow the agency to turn over a new leaf.”
This is welcome news.
Fields had eighteen months of full funding and adequate staff, and still never managed to get a real grasp on the job, and McCaskill’s call for his resignation took on added gravitas when the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency issued a report recommending he be stripped of his law enforcement authority and concluded his department was inept at hirin, strategic planning and writing and following policies for conducting investigations.
Senator McCaskill was right to call for his resignation, he was pretty damned lousy at the job.
And it isn’t like there isn’t plenty to keep an IG staff busy in Afghanistan. On the one hand, you have reconstruction projects falling apart before they are even complete, and on the other you have American businesses that undermine our ostensible mission by failing to pay the Afghan companies that perform the actual work in the war zones.
Here’s hoping that when a replacement is named, Senator McCaskill is consulted. Her background as a tough prosecutor and a no-nonsense state auditor give her the right background to help vet the candidates for the job and assure that the right person for the job is the one selected.