Lessons Learned: from Investigations, 2004−2012

The Iraq reconstruction experience produced a plethora of lessons about what happens when a stabilization and reconstruction operation (SRO) commences without sufficient systemic support in place.

Cover for the Iraq Reconstruction
Lessons Learned from Investigations, 2004−2012

Among the most salient is the need to provide a robust on-the-ground team of investigators and auditors from the outset of such an operation. The presence of strong oversight early on in an SRO would deter the kind of fraud, waste, and abuse that occurred all too often during the U.S. reconstruction program in Iraq.


Waste is the product of poor planning and weak controls. Abuse is bad management caused by insufficient systemic order. But fraud is the intentional wrongdoing by persons seeking to enrich themselves amid a chaotic and often kinetic environment.


This report focuses on fraud and the other white-collar crimes that occurred in the course of the Iraq rebuilding endeavor, eliciting a series of lessons drawn from criminal investigations conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), outlining illustrative examples of major cases, and suggesting best practices for future SROs that could obviate or reduce criminality. There will always be crooks in conflict zones who will try to take advantage of the chaos that wartime brings. But ensuring strong oversight in theater from the start of an SRO could stop many who might otherwise abuse the system; at the very least, it would increase the likelihood of catching those who do.


SIGIR investigators have served in Iraq since 2004, frequently under fire. The inherent disorder of life in a war zone—coupled with the challenges of starting up a new organization—meant that substantial investigative results came gradually. The incremental nature of this progress stemmed, in part, from the unpredictable character of the criminal investigative process, which is less structured and more desultory than the audit process. But significant results did come, and their numbers stand as silent testimony supporting the need for robust oversight during SROs. As of March 31, 2012, SIGIR investigations had yielded 86 indictments, 66 convictions, and more than $175 million in court-ordered fines, forfeitures, restitution payments, and other monetary penalties.

File Description File Size Date
Iraq Reconstruction Lessons Learned from Investigations, 2004−2012 1,673KB PDF 4/30/2012
Front Cover (High Resolution) 100KB JPG 4/30/2012