Iraq Police Training Program a “Bottomless Pit” for US Taxpayers

The bureaucratic and logistical struggles of the State Department's renewed effort to train Iraqi police is full of waste and inefficiency

The US government’s program to train the Iraqi police could become a “bottomless pit” for American taxpayers, according to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).

Due to various bureaucratic and logistical features of the program, it apparently sticks out among the vast array of post-occupation aid and security programs as particularly wasteful. The report said that only 12 percent of the funding allocated to this program would be spent directly training Iraq’s police. The “vast preponderance of money” will go towards providing housing and security to the people doing the training.

Training police is one of the responsibilities turned from the Defense Department over to the State Department just this month, in preparation for the withdrawal of tens of thousands of US troops in December. Although the State Department knew since 2009 that it would be taking over the program, it failed to develop a plan as to how to carry it out.

“Without specific goals, objectives and performance measures, the PDP (Police Development Program) could become a ‘bottomless pit’ for U.S. dollars intended for mentoring, advising and training the Iraqi police forces,” the report stated.

In 2009, the State Department agency in charge of the training, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, estimated it would cost about $721 million to pay for a program with 350 police advisers, averaging out to about $2.1 million per adviser, said SIGIR.

Then in December 2010, the program was slashed almost in half to 190 advisers while costs had only increased. According to SIGIR calculations, the average cost per adviser jumped to $6.2 million per year. Given the costs and bureaucratic structure, analyzed in the report, it is not yet certain what the size or the budget for the program will be.

To boot, Iraq’s police force – numbering 412,000 officers in 2010 – is notoriously unprepared to protect Iraqis, or themselves, with multiple recent incidents of violence ending in the killing of a number of civilians and police officers.

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