Nearly every week, the watchdog tasked with overseeing reconstruction in Afghanistan releases reports detailing new projects or programs that are potentially wasting millions, sometimes billions of taxpayer dollars.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, has flagged a spate of projects and initiatives in Afghanistan—everything from massive billion dollar programs created to equip and train the Afghanistan National Security Forces to smaller projects, like building schools and hospitals around the war torn country.
While the auditor’s reports suggest that billions of tax dollars are being wasted, it is very rare that officials involved in running these programs face any direct consequences.
In the latest report, however, it appears that the auditors have finally had enough – they’re calling for disciplinary action against three U.S. generals.
SIGAR’s new report accuses the generals of “slow rolling” the auditors investigation into a $36 million facility that was built and never used and likely never will be.
The auditors said that despite word from several generals on the ground that they didn’t need the 64,000 sq. ft. command center at Camp Leatherneck, the generals fought to keep working on the project—arguing that spending had already been authorized.
At the time, Maj. Gen. Peter M. Vangje, rejected the request to stop construction on the project.
SIGAR accused Col. Norman Allen, an adviser of Gen. Joseph Dunford, the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of intentionally blocking its investigation—citing an email sent from Allen saying he wanted to “slow roll" the auditor’s investigation into the building and the wasted money.
While SIGAR was conducting its investigation, Dunford apparently ordered an internal investigation, led by Maj. Gen. James Richardson, which concluded with a much rosier picture of the facility.
The auditors disagreed with DOD’s assessment of their facility, and accused the authors of the report of “coaching” officers how to respond to questions.
The revelation outraged lawmakers—who are now demanding answers from the military on the wasted facility.
“This is one of the most outrageous, deliberate and wasteful misuses of taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan we’ve ever seen,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a ranking member of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“When it was clear this building wouldn’t be used, and when three commanders requested its cancellation, the Army not only built it anyway but completely failed to hold any officials accountable after all the facts came to light … so I’ll now be fully expecting answers from the Army,” McCaskill said in a statement.
Allen responded to SIGAR’s report saying he “disagreed with the characterization of my communication and actions.”
Regardless of the allegations of blocking the investigations, this isn’t the first time a multi-million dollar project has been left abandoned in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The auditors recommended that the Pentagon develop a financial management strategy and get rid of the “use it or lose it” approach.
Separately, SIGAR also recommended disciplinary action against the three generals, though did not specify what that would entail.
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