Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

No More “Mad Money”: Salvaging the Commander's Emergency Response Program
by Osterhout, Heidi Lynn, LL.M., The George Washington University, 2010, 98; 1483989
Abstract (Summary)

The U.S. military has touted the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) as one of the greatest successes of the Iraq war. CERP allows commanders to “tap small discretionary funds—mad money, in military slang.” Created in 2004, the US military determined that the hidden Saddam Hussein funds they found should be used for projects directly benefitting the local population. The program worked so well, Congress appropriated several million dollars each year for CERP with $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2010. Historically, most of the funds were used in Iraq; however, for the first time since its inception, more CERP funds are available in 2010 for Afghanistan than Iraq. CERP will remain important in Afghanistan and future conflicts regardless of the withdrawal from Iraq.

Although commanders believe the program is successful from the viewpoint of troop safety and Iraqi cooperation, it remains rife with problems from a government procurement standpoint. Inspectors from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) consistently expressed concerns between 2005 and 2010. The organizations repeatedly cited a lack of transparency, insufficient documentation, concerns about an expanded program, and sustainability of projects. Fraud and mismanagement also remained common critiques. Changes occurred, but slowly, and seemed to respond to direct issues contained in critical reports rather than salvaging the program. Congress responded to the inspection results by withholding approximately 40% of 2010 CERP funds, until the Army implements better tracking and other goals.

This thesis explores CERP and pinpoints shortfalls. The problems are not within the acquisition career fields because it is not FAR-based. Nonetheless, Congress will likely place the responsibility for problem solving upon military acquisition organizations. Although Iraq cannot use the recommendations, an in-depth analysis can help in Afghanistan and future conflicts. A system that is still flexible for commanders but contains more restrictions is necessary to salvage CERP.

A comprehensive overhaul of the program is needed if CERP is expected to withstand high levels of scrutiny dominant in U.S. federal procurement. Many changes are crucial: central documentation for projects, a system to determine project management with more accuracy, more training, a central stateside command’s involvement to provide consistency, and a dispute resolution mechanism.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schooner, Steven L.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Government Procurement Law
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 49/04M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Law
Keywords: CERP, Commander's, Emergency, Procurement, Program, Response
Publication Number: 1483989
ISBN: 978-1-124-39914-0
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