“…Well, it’s, it’s because we didn’t have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn’t have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq…” – Senator Claire McCaskill (D)
Somebody should have told that to Donald Rumsfeld. Oh, wait…
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) was a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, discussing contractor oversight in Afghanistan. The transcript:
Rachel Maddow: ….Joining us now after way too long an absence is Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri, chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Contracting. Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. Good to see you.
Senator Claire McCaskill: Thanks, Rachel, good to be with you.
Rachel Maddow: After all of these years and all of these billions paid to contractors to do this, did they have any explanation for why they haven’t done something as simple as, as telling people what the sights on their guns are for?
Senator McCaskill: Well frankly, I mean, it’s been like the wild west because nobody’s been watching them. This is a textbook example of complete lack of oversight on contracting. And it wouldn’t be so frustrating if this wasn’t a story that we’ve heard over and over again. If you look at this contract it’s been bounced around, from, uh, Defense to State, uh, now they’re trying to take it back to Defense. And here’s the saddest part of the story, this is a key mission of what we’re doing in Afghanistan. Training these police departments is one leg of a three legged stool that is going to dictate whether or not we succeed or whether we fail. So contracting oversight of the police training mission is incredibly important and it has been an abject failure…
…Rachel Maddow: General William Caldwell is in charge of training Afghan forces. He says publicly that he would rather work with people like the real Italian police or any real police other than working with contractors. Uh, General McChrystal today said that we’re too reliant on contractors and said they don’t save money. He says he wants fewer of them in Afghanistan. Who is actually in favor of these contractors still being there? Why can’t we seem to free ourselves of them?
Senator McCaskill: Well, it’s, it’s because we didn’t have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn’t have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq, so the logistic support went to contractors. The, um, training of police went to contractors. Now we’re repeating that in Afghanistan. Now, hopefully, uh, I was in Afghanistan not too long ago, met with both General McChrystal and General Caldwell. I will tell you, General Caldwell gets it. He understands how badly this has been done before. He understands that he’s got to get this under his command and get control of it. But just to give you another example of what, what nonsense there is here, guess who they’re hiring to oversee the contractors that are training the police in Afghanistan? Contractors. [laugh] So, we’ve got to get people in the country that work for our military, that are watching the way these people are being trained because it’s not just training, it’s also mentoring. There’s rampant corruption in these police departments. Uh, and you’re not gonna establish a rule of law unless you work on the mentoring part so they realize there’s a different way to police besides saying what can you pay me to let you go.
Rachel Maddow: I worry about the oversight of, of contracts themselves being, uh, uh, contracted out. Contractors overseeing contractors. I also worry about the fact that we think this is something that can only be done by contractors in terms of devel, uh, delivering this, this service. I mean, Blackwater is up for this police training contract in Afghanistan now, despite Nisour, uh, Nisour Square, despite the State Department investigations, despite this indictment against their former employees. I mean, how badly does a company have to behave before we stop hiring them and just have our troops and our government employees do this stuff?
Senator McCaskill: Part of the problem is that our military wants what they want when they want it. And contracting is a quicker way to get there. Um, we’ve got to realize that that is a luxury we can no longer afford. ‘Cause it hasn’t, hasn’t been a good investment for our taxpayers. And it hasn’t been the kind of support our military needs. So we have to begin to realize that especially training local police for rule of law in a counterinsurgency effort, which is going to be a core competency of our military forever, we’ve got to bring that in house. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the oversight of the contracts that are in the military chain of command so we know who to fire when it goes badly. That’s part of the problem with this mess, is you don’t even know who to hold accountable, because it’s such a cluster. You’ve got NATO in there, you’ve got the military, you’ve got the State Department. Meanwhile these contractors, they’re not really sure who the boss is, so they do what they feel like.
Rachel Maddow: Do you feel like you have support in the administration and at the Pentagon for the views that you’ve expressed here and the way that you’ve approached this issue?
Senator McCaskill: I do, um, you know now, what, what, this is not something you can turn a switch and accomplish. Part of the problem, Rachel, is the area of contracting is not exactly sexy. And you might have noticed that folks around the Capitol kind of like the stuff that’s getting headlines that day. So part of it is attention span. Um, that’s why I’m happy about this committee. We can stay on this even though there may not be a full hearing room, there may, may not be cameras or people covering it in the newspaper. But these agencies are gonna know somebody is paying attention to the way they’re contracting. And I think over time we’re gonna be able to make a real difference, ’cause nobody’s been paying this kind of attention to contracting in the federal government before.
Rachel Maddow: You keep doing these hearings and I promise we will keep covering it. At least at our little show here at nine o’clock. [laugh] Uh, I have one last question [crosstalk] senator.
Senator McCaskill: It’s a deal.
Rachel Maddow: All right, it’s a deal. Uh, [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Sure.
Rachel Maddow: Uh, one last question, is, and I know that you won’t answer it directly, but I’m just gonna ask anyway. Wouldn’t being a Supreme Court justice be an awesome job?
Senator McCaskill: Honestly, for me, I would get way too restless. Um, you know, I, I love, I’m an intellectually curious person and I do love to read, but it’s an isolating job and I kinda need to be out there mixing it up a little bit more than you can do as a Supreme Court justice. So, it’s not something that I, honestly I don’t think I ‘d even be considered, uh, but if I were I’d have to say I, I don’t think I’m the right personality to be a Supreme Court justice.
Rachel Maddow: Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri answering that with way more detail than I ‘d ever thought I’d get. Uh, thank you so much for your time today. [laughter] And good luck to the Cardinals tonight.
Senator McCaskill: Thank you very much.
Rachel Maddow: All right….
Give ’em hell, Harry.