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Congress cracks down as VA bureaucracy proves more wasteful and incompetent

The solution to government waste lies in smaller, more limited government -- not, as recent news demonstrates, in massive, inefficient federal bureaucracies.

A congressional battle is brewing over the Department of Veterans Affairs' admitted mismanagement of construction projects across the country -- including an over-budget, billion-dollar hospital in Colorado that was, briefly, abandoned by the contractor. 

"VA construction managers couldn't lead starving troops to a chow hall," Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman said in a recent statement. 

Coffman, an Army and Marine Corps combat veteran, plans to introduce legislation stripping the VA of its authority to manage construction projects, and putting the Army Corps of Engineers in charge instead. 

The Republican congressman's district includes the location of the troubled VA hospital project in Aurora, Colo. -- the latest black eye for the agency following the scandal over secret waiting lists. 

The VA's original design in 2005 was estimated to cost $328 million. By 2008, design changes led Congress to authorize $568 million for the project. By 2010, Congress increased the authorization to $800 million. 

With most of that money already spent, the hospital is still only half-finished, leaving area veterans frustrated and angry. 

"It makes no sense to me why the VA is managing the project," one veteran named Mark said while entering the aging Denver hospital which the Aurora project is supposed to replace. "I am one of the many hundreds of thousands who need a better facility to get treatment quicker." 

With costs soaring and the VA falling behind on payments to general contractor Kiewit-Turner, the company sued. 

In December, the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals agreed with the company's assessment that the project could not be completed for less than $1 billion -- and let it out of its contract. 

Kiewit-Turner then initially walked off the half-finished project, leaving 1,400 workers out of a job. 

In a visit to Colorado to negotiate a deal to bring workers back, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson admitted the agency was at fault. "I apologize to veterans here in Colorado. I apologize to the taxpayers. We have let you down," he said. 

Coffman maintains, "It's not isolated to Aurora, Colorado. Every major construction project that the [VA] has right now is hundreds of millions of dollars over-budget and years behind schedule." 

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