On June 6, the South Asia Center hosted a discussion with Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Mr. Bowen addressed lessons learned from Iraq and the need for a new model for stability and reconstruction operations (SROs).

Of more than $60 billion dollars set forth by Congress for Iraq reconstruction, at least $8 billion was lost to waste, fraud, and other malfeasance. This accounts for nearly 15 percent of the funds appropriated—an astounding sum. The United States has no unified structure for conducting SROs. As a result, a multitude of federal entities often duplicate efforts and sometimes work at cross purposes to each other. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have been glaring examples of money and effort gone to waste.

With the current financial realities and continued instability in the Middle East and South Asia, efficacious SROs are becoming even more important. What lessons have been learned from the past decade’s interventions? How should the United States plan for future SROs, should they become necessary?

Stuart W. Bowen, Jr. was appointed inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority in January 2004, and, since October 2004, he has served as the special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction. As the “taxpayer’s watchdog” in Iraq, Mr. Bowen has overseen more than $60 billion in US funds. Over the past nine years, Mr. Bowen has made thirty-four trips to Iraq, managed the production of 390 audits and inspections, issued nine comprehensive “lessons learned” reports, and provided thirty-five quarterly reports on Iraq reconstruction to the Congress. His oversight work has produced financial benefits to the US government in excess of $1.8 billion, yielded eighty-four convictions for fraud and other crimes, and recovered $200 million. Inspector General Bowen’s public service career includes service first to George W. Bush while he served as governor of Texas, then with President Bush in the White House as deputy assistant to the president, deputy staff secretary, special assistant to the president, and associate counsel. Mr. Bowen’s military service included four years on active duty as an intelligence officer in the US Air Force, earning the rank of captain and the Air Force Commendation Medal.