Ranking Member Kay Granger Opening StatementSubcommittee on State, Foreign Operations Oversight of U.S. Civilian Assistance for Afghanistan July 15, 2010

Thank you, Madam Chair, for calling this very important hearing on oversight of U.S. civilian assistance for Afghanistan.  

I understand that this will be the first in a series of hearings and briefings the subcommittee will hold, and I agree that there are many issues that must be addressed.  

Let me begin by saying I share the chair’s concerns about the disturbing news reports coming out -almost everyday - highlighting the corruption problem in Afghanistan. We are all eager to get to the bottom of these allegations. I’d also like to cite some of the most alarming results of recent surveys: A U.N. report earlier this year showed that more Afghans are concerned about corruption than any other public problem. Transparency international’s most recent survey again ranked Afghanistan as one of the most corrupt places in the world.  And just last week, an Afghanistan-based group revealed a new study showing that bribery may be a billion dollar business.

Corruption is not something that can be fixed overnight, but we must do all we can.  This subcommittee must take decisive action to ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are used as intended. At the same time, I want to be sure that the subcommittee’s actions support the broader strategy on the ground in Afghanistan.  The strategy was not intended to be solely a military endeavor -- the civilian side was inherently linked to the overall plan.  As General Petraeus noted in his June 15th testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, a “critically important part of our civilian-military campaign in Afghanistan is promoting broad-based economic and infrastructure development.”  With this in mind, I remain concerned about any potential negative impact that withholding foreign assistance would have while U.S. military and civilians are on the ground.

That is why it is essential that we hear from the witnesses before us today to get a better understanding of the oversight that is being conducted.  I also look forward to another hearing with senior Administration officials who are responsible for executing the civilian side of the Afghanistan strategy.  

 I’d now like to welcome today’s witnesses - Major General Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Mr. Gambatesa the Inspector General for U.S.A.I.D., and Mr. Johnson, director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the G.A.O.

Each of you - and your organizations - play a critical role in preventing and detecting waste, fraud, and abuse of foreign assistance dollars, and I thank you for your service.
The chair has already laid out many questions for you to answer, all of which deserve our attention, and there are a few additional matters I’d like you to address.  

First, I want to know that funds invested in Afghanistan are achieving tangible results.  This starts by ensuring that programs are free from corruption -which I know we will discuss in great detail today - but it also means that U.S.-funded programs have clear goals and objectives that are tracked and measured over time.  

When I visited Afghanistan last fall, I was stunned by the lack of progress there.  With roughly $50 Billion invested by the U.S. since FY 2002, results are difficult to see.  This cannot continue.  Accountability and a focus on results must be part of the culture of U.S. agencies, and that should funnel all the way down to the implementers -the afghan government, contractors, grantees, international organizations, and the multiple levels of awardees below them.  I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on how we can move toward a focus on results and accountability.        

Next, I want to have confidence that sending more assistance through Afghanistan’s institutions and non -governmental organizations is the best course of action. I recognize the need to build the capacity of the government and local groups, but given the recent allegations, now is not the time to subject U.S funds to unnecessary risk.  If the administration continues with the “Afghan first” initiative, more than a billion dollars could be distributed in this way.  I believe this policy deserves intense scrutiny, and I’d like to hear your assessment and any recommendations that the subcommittee should consider.

I also want to discuss the civilian personnel strategy Afghanistan.  I understand that the positions have tripled in the last 18 months, but I want to determine if the people who are filling those slots have the right skills to oversee such large programs and in such a difficult operating environment. I’d like to hear your thoughts and any recommendations in this area as well.

In closing, I look forward to getting a better understanding of the work your organizations have already undertaken - and the work that is planned - to address waste, fraud, and abuse.  Your testimony will help the subcommittee have confidence in providing the funds necessary to support the president’s strategy in Afghanistan.