The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft.
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Seemingly odd decisions on dividing the responsibility for various sectors of the reconstruction crop up repeatedly in the document. At one point, a planning team made the decision to put all reconstruction activities in Iraq under the Army Corps of Engineers, except anything to do with water, which would go to the Navy. At the time, a retired admiral, David Nash, was in charge of the rebuilding.
“It almost looks like a spoils system between various agencies,” said Steve Ellis, a vice president and an authority on the Army corps at Taxpayers for Common Sense, an organization in Washington, who read a copy of the document. “You had various fiefdoms established in the contracting process.”
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Until January 2003, reconstruction planning was conducted in secrecy “to avoid the impression that the U.S. government had already decided on intervention,” the draft history says. Possibly as a result, the American administrative authority arrived with no written plans or strategies for purchasing and contracting and no personnel with expertise in the area.