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Pink slip tucked into defense bill

John Dimsdale Nov 3, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Congress is known for its huge pieces of legislation. Spending bills, usually. That can be thousands of pages thick. Every now and then there’s a story about some obscure paragraph in one of them that somehow nobody in the House or Senate knew about.

Today’s one of those days. The New York Times spotted it. A provision in the Defense Authorization bill the president signed two weeks ago that shuts down the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Iraq. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports from Washington.

JOHN DIMSDALE: The Special Inspector General’s office oversees $27 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds in Iraq. IG audits have uncovered billions in bribes and mismanagement — from padded bills to shoddy construction, unaccounted for materials and contractor cover-ups. Four people have gone to jail due to the IG’s findings; the Justice Department is prosecuting 28 other criminal cases.

Today, several members of Congress admitted they didn’t know they had voted to close the inspector general’s office. They claim the provision was quietly tucked into the Defense Authorization bill at the last minute by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee. That doesn’t sit well with North Carolina Democrat David Price.

DAVID PRICE: This isn’t the first time that something that was not discussed or passed by either House . . . that was not involved in conference between the House and Senate representatives pulling this bill together. All of a sudden it just appears in the bill. It’s unacceptable to legislate this way.

HENRY WAXMAN: It seems mysterious where this provision came from but there’s no mystery why it’s in there.

California Democrat Henry Waxman says he knew it was in the bill, which is one reason he voted against it.

WAXMAN: It appears the administration wants to silence Stuart Bowen, who’s been a messenger about waste and fraud in Iraq. He’s done an outstanding job. And that’s why it seems they’re trying to take it away from him so that job won’t be done.

A spokesman for the Armed Services committee chairman said the inspector general’s office was slated to expire soon anyway.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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