Pentagon Doesn’t Know What Happened to $1.3 Billion in Afghanistan

Pentagon Doesn’t Know What Happened to $1.3 Billion in Afghanistan

REuters/Abdul Qodus/Files
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

The Pentagon isn’t able to tell federal auditors what happened to more than $1.3 billion in funds intended for construction projects in Afghanistan. 

The money was dispersed through a program established to speed up the rebuilding process in Afghanistan by giving money directly to military officers to build roads, bridges, dams and other projects to avoid the lengthy bureaucratic procurement process. 

But in the rush to spend and build, much of the money paid out by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) between 2004 and 2014 has gone unaccounted for, according to auditors who spent the last year trying to find it. 

Related: 7 Threats to U.S. Rebuilding Efforts in Afghanistan 

A new report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says the Defense Department could only provide its office with documentation for $890 million, or roughly 40 percent, of the total $2.2 billion in funds. 

The auditors blamed the Pentagon’s financial and project management process for not sufficiently tracking spending, saying DoD’s system doesn’t contain enough data or comprehensive information relating to the actual costs of the projects. 

The auditors took the information the Pentagon did provide and divided it up into categories like education, health care, water and sanitation. Aside from transportation, the item that had the most expenses was labeled “unknown.”

 Humanitarian and Reconstructive Projects

U.S. Central Command responded to the inspector general’s findings, or lack thereof, by saying that some of the unaccounted for CERP funds had been shifted to other military needs. “Although the report is technically accurate, it did not discuss the counterinsurgency strategies in relationship to CERP,” the Central Command said.

In total, the U.S. has doled out about $3.7 billion through CERP funds, with $2.2 billion coming from the Defense Department. 

This is just the latest report from SIGAR highlighting the Pentagon’s problems keeping track of the enormous amount of money flowing into Afghanistan. Earlier reporting suggested the U.S. has lost some $100 billion in the reconstruction efforts. 

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”