The US Army is struggling to deal with the six-fold increase in contracting activity since September 11, an independent commission says.

The commission, which was appointed by Army Secretary Pete Geren following a series of procurement scandals, found army contracting staff are overworked, poorly trained and unprepared to manage billions of dollars in contracts.

Commission head Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisitions chief, says half the US force in Iraq now consists of contractors, but the army has not appointed more officials to negotiate and handle their contracts, AFP reports.

The commission found that only 50 percent of contracting officials are certified to do the job, while in Iraq and Kuwait only 36 percent are certified.

“They’re not trained to do it, they’re not used to doing it, and it’s a little bit hard when someone hands them a bag of money and says, you know, manage this. Some of it might fall out,” Gansler says.

“What you don’t want is to have the system break down and become illegal or improper.

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“You want to be able to have a regulated system, but one that responds rapidly and effectively.”

By staff writer