A top Republican senator wants to know if the Defense Department is punishing the Army colonel who blew the whistle on the agency task force responsible for building a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan.
Army Colonel John Hope was the director of operations for the Pentagon’s $800 million Afghanistan Task Force for Stability and Business Operations, – which designed to focused on economic redevelopment in U.S. war zones. W – when he complained about a lack of financial accountability, and now claimshe claimed he’s he was “been “singled out for retaliation and retribution,” Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said last week in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
Hope told Grassley’s office that his evaluation, or performance review, is being slow-rolled as a form of retaliation.
“Being long overdue, (the evaluation) has placed his next assignment in jeopardy, leaving him in limbo,” Grassley wrote to Carter. “Would you please look into this and find out why Colonel Hope’s (evaluation) has not been completed? I respectfully ask that you provide a deadline for completing that task and providing Colonel Hope with a new set of orders for his next assignment. Your assistance is necessary in this case.”
In a statement accompanying the letter’s release on Monday, the Iowa Republican put the Pentagon on notice if Hope’s allegations turned out to be true.
“If the Pentagon is retaliating against someone for speaking out on poor accountability and wasteful spending, that’s unacceptable,” Grassley said. “It’s detrimental to the individual and to the taxpayers.”
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently issued a damning report that found the task force, which has since been disbanded, spent $43 million to build a gas station in Afghanistan when the project should have cost something in the neighborhood of $500,000.
Grassley’s letter is just the latest example of congressional outrage over the SIGAR study. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, used the report to push for an update on the Pentagon’s efforts to meet a legally-mandatedlegally mandated audit in 2017.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will likely hold a hearing next month specifically to examine how the Pentagon squandered $12 million on direct costs and around $20 million in overhead for the gas station.
The Iowa Republican’s missive isn’t the first time he’s weighed in on the Afghan boondoggle. He sent a letter to Carter earlier this month asking for a record of all the expenditures for the controversial task force because he wants to audit the organization’s receipts.