by Joe Coleman
A new inspector general’s investigation found a Pentagon business advocacy agency spent almost $150 million on private “villas” and security for a very small contingent of staff and visitors in Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction presented his findings in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and insisted on more transparency about the program.
Inspector General John Sopko said, “If employees had instead lived at [Pentagon] facilities in Afghanistan, where housing, security, and food service are routinely provided at little or no extra charge to [Pentagon] organizations, it appears the taxpayers would have saved tens of millions of dollars.” Sopko questioned the need for the “western-style hotel accommodations” that included flat-screen TVs, private bodyguards and “three-star” dining services for attendees. There are questions about who exactly stayed at the villas and who approved the expenditures.
Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is an important member of the Armed Services Committee. She is calling on the Pentagon for more transparency as well. She said, “This letter raises troubling questions that have become all too familiar when we’re talking about how taxpayer money is spent on projects in Afghanistan.” Lt. Colonel Joe Sowers, the Pentagon spokesman, said, “We have received the recent letter from SIGAR [Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction] and will respond.”
The military agency under scrutiny, the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, spent more than $800 million in Afghanistan from the years 2009 to 2014 and received previous accusations of mismanagement. The inspector’s report found that 20% of the task force’s budget went to providing luxury housing and security for “no more than five to 10” staff.
If our politicians keeping throwing billions of tax dollars at the Pentagon with a sense of belligerent abandon it’s evident we’re going to see more reports just like this one. William S. Burroughs once said that politicians are the stupidest breed of American there is. It is also the military’s entitled sense of privilege to secrecy that enables the conditions for just this type of financial mismanagement and waste.