We hear these words all too often, even when the speaker can't identify particulars that make a difference.
In http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/opinion/sunday/runaway-spending-on-war..., referring to the report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting some aspects — constituting between 15% and 29% of expenditures — are actually identified in detail:
Tales of waste, fraud and mayhem by private contractors have been commonplace during 10 years of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now a Congressional study commission has put a “conservative” estimate on waste of between $31 billion and $60 billion in the $206 billion paid to contractors since the start of the two wars.
Excessive reliance on badly supervised private contractors indulging “vast amounts of spending for no benefit” is the heart of the problem, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan panel established by Congress, which conducted the three-year study.
Contractor malfeasance has also filled the enemy’s coffers. The report notes that contractors, particularly those in Afghanistan, are often willing to pay local warlords and insurgents for “protection.” The commission found that in some cases, these extorted payments ate up 20 percent of the value of the contract. There were comparable payoffs to warlords for allowing, say, electricity to flow from projects financed by the United States.
Quite simply, contractors should only be used for intermittent, highly skilled services. Most small business owners would recognize this principle. Where services are routine, such as the defense of embassies or logistics for combat troops, they should be provided by government employees and regular military personnel — not contractors. Use of government employees enhances accountability and cost effectiveness. To advocate for use of contractors for routine services is to advocate for inherent "waste, fraud, and abuse" and allocation of resources for reasons other than efficiency and effectiveness.