Spending Our Way to Victory

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Your tax dollars at work.

Army Major Scott Hamilton was a civil affairs officer who deployed to Iraq in 2007-08 during the U.S. troop surge. He says he was unable to spend the Commander’s Emergency Response Program money as fast as his commanders wanted it to be spent.

“The amount of money they wanted to see spent was literally impossible to do,” he told the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in a December 2010 interview. “I would have had to have thrown money away by tens of thousands a day, and it just wasn’t possible.” Excerpts:

They had an obscene amount of CERP money that had to be spent and what they wanted me to do was spend it.

One of the things we know is that we can use money as a weapon system in our planning thought process, but we also know that like any weapon, it can be used to cause more damage than good.

I tried to spend money and develop projects as judiciously as I could, but there was still a lot of pressure to spend, spend, and spend. The amount of money they wanted to see spent was literally impossible to do. I would have had to have thrown money away by tens of thousands a day, and it just wasn’t possible.

The direction I got was going back to the stated intent; at the time, our theater commander GEN [David] Petraeus [the top U.S. commander in Iraq] had several  directional letters that he had put out, what he wanted to accomplish, how he wanted it approached, and I fell back to that.

That was where I got my planning guidance from. The battalion I was with and the brigade wanted money spent and the area pacified so they could get out.

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I could understand that, but what I had to look at was judicious use of the nation’s resources and the long-term gain of establishing a long-term peace.  That’s what led me to the program in Salman Pak; if I showed up and started spending money, everything would be fine — as long as I was spending money.

When I stopped spending money, everybody would be even angrier than they were before we came in.

I approached it with long-term goals instead of short-term goals, and part of the problem was that I was there for a short-term.

The company commander said, “Look, just do what the battalion commander wants so we can get out of here,” and that was just the wrong answer.

I tried to meet the intent of GEN Petraeus and tried to apply the goals of the battalion commander, and had some successes. I never was able to make everybody happy, which is okay…

I uncovered several instances of criminal activity among the company that I was with; the reason I can’t expound on that very much is because these are ongoing investigations.

The criminal activity I refer to is the theft of money. I identified several persons who I suspected or knew were stealing money from contracts or taking payoffs and bribes, or seeking to take payoffs and bribes from contractors and representatives.

[Are you talking about U.S. or Iraqi?]

U.S., in my company. It was a very unpleasant situation, and it put us all in a bad spot. But, in the spirit of honesty and disclosure, I did the right thing and sought out the proper authorities and reported what I knew and suspected.

It was unpleasant and very unfortunate, and I very much regret being in that position, but it is a historical fact that what happened did happen, and I trust that Criminal Investigative Division (CID) is following the appropriate courses of action, but I don’t know what’s going on past the report.

I know some of the people who I reported have been investigated, found guilty, and imprisoned, but I don’t know about all of it.