Contractor Atrocities at Abu Ghraib: Compromised Accountability in a Streamlined, Outsourced Government

25 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2004 Last revised: 9 Apr 2014

See all articles by Steven L. Schooner

Steven L. Schooner

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: May 29, 2012


Staggering numbers of contractor personnel have supported, and continue to support, American combat and peace-keeping troops and the government's Herculean reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Yet recent experiences in Iraq, particularly allegations that contractor personnel were involved in inappropriate and potentially illegal activities at the Abu Ghraib prison, expose numerous areas of concern with regard to the current state of federal public procurement. Sadly, because these incidents coincide with a series of procurement scandals, the likes of which the government has not experienced since the late 1980's, they cannot be dismissed so easily as anomalies.

The Abu Ghraib abuses suggest at least two matters that cry out for government-wide attention and intervention. First, the federal government must devote more resources to contract administration, management, and oversight. This investment is an urgent priority given the combination of the 1990's Congressionally-mandated acquisition workforce reductions and the Bush administration's relentless pressure to accelerate the outsourcing trend. Second, the proliferation of interagency indefinite-delivery contract vehicles, and the perverse incentives that derive from these fee-based purchasing vehicles, have prompted troubling pathologies in public contracting that require correction and constraint.

Keywords: public procurement, government contract, outsourcing, acquisition workforce, Abu Ghraib, Iraq

JEL Classification: H57, K23, L33, N40

Suggested Citation

Schooner, Steven L., Contractor Atrocities at Abu Ghraib: Compromised Accountability in a Streamlined, Outsourced Government (May 29, 2012). Stanford Law & Policy Review, Vol. 16, p. 549-572, 2005, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 109, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 109, Available at SSRN:

Steven L. Schooner (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-3037 (Phone)
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