The public has been assured that when it comes to US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan that the “wars are winding down.” Unfortunately it seems that not only is that not the case, there also appears to be a real problem regarding the way in which taxpayer money is being spent. The latest example comes out of Afghanistan (America’s longest war) as the findings from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report about how much taxpayer money has been wasted rebuilding that country.
According to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “Too often we’ve pushed taxpayer money out the door without considering if the Afghans need it and can sustain it.” Here are just some examples of what was found:
- Disappearance of large amounts of munitions given to the Afghan security forces due to the Pentagon’s inability to properly track the weapons.
- Two C-130 transport planes (which cost $40.5 million each) will likely not be able to be used by Afghanistan.
- Nearly 300 buildings (i.e. barracks, fire stations, med clinics) have not been built up to international standards are hazardous.
Perry Chiaramonte, writing for Fox News, reported on the troubling story last week:
John Sopko, the inspector general charged with monitoring aid sent by the U.S. to Afghanistan, has identified potentially billions of dollars wasted in Afghanistan, including donation of planes the local government doesn’t need or can’t use, weapons that disappear as soon as they’re handed over and construction of brand new buildings that are basically firetraps. In a steady stream of audit reports, Sopko’s office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, has spotlighted seemingly endless waste in the war-torn nation…
It’s not clear how much of the reconstruction aid is considered to have been wasted, but SIGAR officials say that during 2012, Sopko’s first year on the job, the general inspected projects, programs, and general issues that totaled $10.6 billion in funding and found nearly $7 billion was potentially wasted.
There really can be no justification for why the government is throwing away billions of dollars in taxpayer money in Afghanistan. Regardless of the arguments for or against the policy of troop withdrawal, this is the longest war America has been involved in and to be burning through tax dollars to the tune of billions without any accountability or a clear plan for how that money will be spent is inexcusable, unnecessary, and entirely avoidable.
The SIGAR report also highlights another real problem regarding the safety and security of American military and civilian personnel in the region. Maggie Ybarra of the Washington Times detailed the fears related to faulty tracking for weaponry that US taxpayers funded to be used by a fledgling Afghan Army:
A Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report scheduled to be made public Monday says the Pentagon’s two primary information systems that track weapons sent to Afghanistan — the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database and the Security Cooperation Information Portal — are rife with errors.
Although the oversight agency cannot say at this point whether any of the arms have made their way into neighboring countries such as Pakistan, the flawed tracking methods are fostering fears that militants could gain control of Pentagon-supplied weapons.
It takes only a few pages of the report to realize that there’s a real deficiency when it comes to spending and accountability at the Pentagon. Taxpayers are on the hook for billions of dollars worth in costs for reconstruction and arms and yet the money is being wasted due to the fact that the weapons can’t be tracked accurately, and the buildings aren’t being built properly.
Just last week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reported on the nearly $20 billion in earmarks found in the House and Senate Defense Appropriations bills. What was uncovered revealed just how easy it is for Congress to get around the rules and throw more taxpayer money away. The SIGAR report underscores the importance of putting an end to that type of reckless spending by Congress.
When you look at the level of financial commitment the United States has put into the reconstruction of Afghanistan, it has exceeded that of the post-WWII Marshall Plan which was developed to aid sixteen European nations after the war came to an end in 1945. Today, the value of the Marshall Plan stands at $103.4 billion (adjusted for inflation); we’ve spent $104 billion in Afghanistan reconstruction costs.
The SIGAR report (read it here) is an eye-opening look at wasteful spending by the Department of Defense. This should only be the starting point for Congress and the Pentagon to demand more oversight and save taxpayer dollars.