Army Corps of Engineers' McCoy on Iraq Reconstruction

Renee Montagne talks to Brig. Gen. William McCoy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, about why it's taken so long to deliver essential services such as clean water and electricity to Iraqis. McCoy took charge of overseeing U.S. contracting projects there in December.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now, we turn to Brigadier General William McCoy, Commander of the United States Army Corp of Engineers in Iraq.

He oversees United States contracting projects there.

General McCoy, welcome to the program.

General WILLIAM MCCOY (United States Army, Corps of Engineers): Thank you.

MONTAGNE: The latest progress report produced by U.S. government shows that Iraqis are generating less electricity, producing less oil than before the war; there appears to be less clean water and sewage services. Why has it been so hard to deliver these essential services?

General WILLIAM MCCOY, (Brigadier General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers): The point that you made about power is true. I mean, they don't have as much power as they did before the war. But the fact was that before the war, the only people that really had any power of significance was Baghdad. The rest of country stayed on about four to six hours of power all the time, and that's because that's where Saddam put his attention. Today, we have the majority of the country on 12 hours of power all the time, and Baghdad we continue to fluctuate between three and about six or seven hours.

MONTAGNE: What about the other indications that suggests that there's not such great success, oil production down, heating oil production down?

General MCCOY: Let me be real clear here. We never intended to totally rebuild this country. The U.S. strategy was always to provide a jumpstart for Iraq to do that.

MONTAGNE: Granted though there has been some success, how many projects won't be finished; and those that aren't finished, do they signal that the U.S. has failed?

General MCCOY: I don't see it that way. I mean, the strategy has changed over the course of the last two years. For instance, at the time we asked for reconstruction funds, we did not think we were going to need a strong Iraqi security force. That changed. So the cost of construction is not as cheap as it was two years ago when we made the initial estimates. That said, of the projects that I've got going on right now, we anticipate we will be able to finish up to about 3500 projects. Most of them will be done by the summer of '07.

MONTAGNE: How much of an effect has corruption had on these projects?

General MCCOY: I get asked that question a lot. There have been allegations out there that in the early days, U.S. personnel were corrupt in the system and stealing the money. And I will tell you now that we had the processes in place that disallow that inside the U.S. structure. The way I deal with the Iraqis is when we can validate that they've done some aspect of work that needs to be paid for, we pay the bill, but we don't pay the Iraqi ministry.

MONTAGNE: So you bypass the ministries. Does that mean you don't trust them?

General MCCOY: No, it doesn't mean I don't trust them. It means we're making sure on behalf of our government and on behalf the Iraqi government -- because we do spend some Iraqi money over here too - so that means we're making sure that the funding is going the way that it's expected to go.

MONTAGNE: General McCoy, thanks very much for talking with us.

General MCCOY: And I hope you have a very good day.

MONTAGNE: Brigadier General William McCoy is commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. He joined on the line from Baghdad.

(Soundbite music)

MONTAGNE:

You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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