– The Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is likely paying contractors millions of dollars for unnecessary work in Iraq because the military is not giving companies clear enough guidance about reducing their employees, officials on the Commission on Wartime Contracting said Monday.

There are roughly 102,000 contractors in Iraq, and each contracted worker can cost the government thousands of dollars a month, according to federal auditors. Commissioners said they were concerned that the U.S. military was not providing contractors with key information to help them synchronize their efforts with the drawdown of combat forces.

There are about 98,000 troops in Iraq, but that figure is expected to drop to 50,000 by August. At that time, the Pentagon estimates that the number of contract employees in the country will still exceed 70,000.

“Conducting the drawdown of forces is not a simple task like turning down a thermostat,” said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission.

The commission, which was appointed in 2008, questioned officials from Houston-based KBR at a hearing Monday about whether they were reducing their work force in a cost-effective and timely way.

Under a $38 billion contract, KBR provides a variety of logistics services, from running dining halls to doing laundry and transporting supplies.

Auditors for the Defense Department said late last year that KBR could save $193 million from January to August this year by reducing its work force.

But, in a new report, auditors said that KBR’s plans for a drawdown in the same time period would save only $27 million.

KBR officials said they need “written contractual direction” from the U.S. military about its plans to reduce troops so that it can staff accordingly.