The US deputy secretary for defence, Paul Wolfowitz, on 9 December confirmed that 26 upcoming contracts, worth a total of $18,600 million, would be awarded to US allies only. The announcement was made in a written statement, posted on the US Department of Defence website, which said that the decision aims to force foreign companies based in non-coalition countries to pressure their governments to join the allies. 'Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts,' the statement said, indicating that sub-contracts would still be available to companies based in non-coalition countries. Wolfowitz added that limiting the main contracts to allied states would increase security in Iraq. 'It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners and [military] force contributing nations,' the statement said. 'Thus it is clearly in the public interest to limit prime contracts to companies from these countries,' it said.
The announcement brought criticism from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers in Washington. Democrat Senator Joseph Biden, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the move as a 'totally gratuitous slap' that 'does nothing to protect our security interests and everything to alienate countries we need with us in Iraq'. In another statement, Republican representative Frank Wolf said that instead of blocking foreign involvement in the reconstruction effort, the US administration should 'redouble efforts to internationalise the rebuilding of Iraq'.