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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 03:01 GMT
US army contracting alarms panel
US army soldiers in Iraq
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched US armed forces
An independent panel has strongly criticised the way the US army manages contracts to supply its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The panel said there were high levels of fraud and waste in relation to contracts worth $4bn (1.9bn) a year.

It blamed a lack of oversight and said only about half the army's contracting staff were properly qualified.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he was "dismayed" by the report and the Pentagon would pursue its suggestions.

The army says it is pursuing 83 criminal inquiries related to contract fraud and more than $15m in bribes have been exposed.

The panel did not address specific allegations against individuals, but made clear that a lack of oversight and too few army contracting personnel had exacerbated systemic problems.

This is a systemic issue within the army
Jacques Gansler
Former US undersecretary of defence

The number of army personnel responsible for managing contracts in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan dropped as the number of contracts and their value soared over 12 years, the panel found.

Only about half of all contracting personnel are certified to do their jobs, it added.

The panel said some 2,000 extra staff were needed to deal with a 600% increase in the workload.

"This is a systemic issue within the army and within the DoD [Department of Defense]," said Jacques Gansler, chairman of the commission.

"It usually takes a crisis to make change. We have a crisis, we can make those changes."

Defence Secretary Gates said he was "dismayed by a lot of the findings" but encouraged by the group's suggested improvements.

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