Right now, the U.S. is operating in as many as 15 African countries and has spent at least $600 million on various military operations in sub-Saharan Africa alone. These developments are receiving little congressional interest or oversight.
This increase in military engagement will assuredly bring an increased influx of development aid. But trying to do development in a war zone is like trying to hang shutters on a house during a hurricane — doable in theory, but entirely foolish and never done well.
If there is no mechanism in place to oversee that funding, and if we wait until operations are up and running on the African continent, we’ll be building a “plane in flight” as Bowen said.
Wars are not inevitable, but corruption during wars appears to be. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been embezzled or wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan, and millions more stand to be wasted as the U.S. military prepares for — or looks for — the next war.
The U.S. departments of Defense and State, and their contractors, cannot continue to waste large amounts of taxpayer dollars, as they have over the past decade of war. We need real oversight of these funds moving forward and a permanent inspector general for Overseas Contingency Operations could provide it.
Michael Shank is the director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Matt Southworth is a veteran of the Iraq War and a legislative associate for foreign policy at FCNL.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.