British firm’s $50M in costs challenged
U.S. hired company to train Afghanistan intelligence officers.
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.
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.