Bri­tish firm’s $50M in costs chal­lenged

U.S. hired com­pany to train Afghanistan in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Richard Lard­ner

A Bri­tish WASH­ING­TON — com­pany hired to train Afghan in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers billed the U.S. gov­ern­ment for high-end cars, in­clud­ing Porsches and an As­ton Martin, and paid the “sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers” of the firm’s top ex­ec­u­tives six-fig­ure salaries even though there is no proof they did any work, ac­cord­ing to de­tails of a Pen­tagon au­dit made pub­lic Wed­nes­day.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said New Cen­tury Con­sult­ing also spent $42,000 on au­to­matic weapons, us­ing cash to get around a pro­hi­bi­tion in the con­tract on pur­chas­ing the firearms, and show­ered other per­son­nel with hefty pay and bonuses they hadn’t earned. Over­all, the mil­i­tary con­trac­tor “left tax­pay­ers on the hook for over $50 mil­lion in ques­tion­able costs,” McCaskill said in a state­ment.

McCaskill, the top Demo­crat on the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said she had re­quested the au­dit along with fel­low com­mit­tee mem­ber Sen. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio. She sum­ma­rized the au­dit’s ma­jor find­ings in a let­ter to De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and de­manded to know what steps are be­ing taken to re­cover the dis­puted pay­ments.

Michael Grun­berg, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of New Cen­tury Con­sult­ing, said the com­pany is be­ing por­trayed un­fairly and that it strives to fol­low fed­eral ac­qui­si­tion rules.

McCaskill’s dis­clo­sure of the au­dit’s key find­ings is a rare glimpse into the opaque world of bat­tle­field con­tract­ing.

Con­trac­tors in Afghanistan han­dle se­cu­rity, trans­porta­tion, con­struc­tion and more. Yet the De­fense Depart­ment has faced wide­spread crit­i­cism that it of­ten fails to per­form rig­or­ous over­sight of the com­pa­nies.

The re­port also comes amid the tense de­bate in­side the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over the way ahead in Afghanistan.

Two of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s most se­nior ad­vis­ers — chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner — have been ad­vo­cat­ing for mil­i­tary con­trac­tors to fight the war there in­stead of Amer­i­can forces.

The United States has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, and so far Trump has re­sisted the Pen­tagon’s rec­om­men­da­tions to send as many as 4,000 more.

Black­wa­ter World­wide founder Erik Prince, the brother of Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos, was ap­proached by Trump’s top ad­vis­ers to de­velop pro­pos­als to grad­u­ally swap out U.S. troops and put con­trac­tors in their place.

SU­SAN WALSH / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sum­ma­rized the ma­jor find­ings of an au­dit of New Cen­tury Con­sult­ing’s bills in a let­ter to De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and de­manded to know what steps are be­ing taken to re­cover the dis­puted pay­ments.

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