[In response to a request for comment on ABC News' recent report "Top 6 Ways to Burn Taxpayers' Millions in Afghanistan," the Department of Defense provided a lengthy defense of its military projects and reconstruction efforts, noting that failed projects are "vastly outweighed by the positive cumulative impact of the wide array of successful projects." Portions of the DoD response were included in the text of the ABC News report and the full statement is below, including responses to individual project reports:]
The Department of Defense (DoD) strives to ensure every reconstruction project is executed in a manner that demonstrates responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. We value the oversight provided by inspectors general and audit agencies, and incorporate their findings and recommendations into subsequent efforts. Working in a war time environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes. We also are focused on building the capability and capacity or our Afghan partners to improve accountability and help instill sound financial management practices in daily operations while reducing the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.
Our shared goal with the Afghan people is to ensure that the tremendous progress achieved over the past decade through the investments and sacrifices of the international community and Afghanistan is sustainable. The reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are central to this. While there have been some instances of underperforming projects, these are vastly outweighed by the positive cumulative impact of the wide array of successful projects. Singling out a few underperforming projects-or misrepresenting or misconstruing the reasons why a project’s results did not turn out as expected and drawing larger conclusion about the effectiveness of reconstruction efforts-detracts from an accurate understanding of the overall positive impact that reconstruction has had on Afghanistan.
Sahib Border Facility
The Sahib border police facility was built in accordance with Afghan government planned use for that facility, including the number of personnel who were to be assigned to it. The Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) Facilities Department currently has control of the facility and determines its staffing levels on the basis of its operational requirements, which are subject to change as security conditions change. DoD’s focus is on assisting the MoI to develop the capacity to prioritize, budget, operate and maintain the facilities provided to them.
Leatherneck Command Center
The Department of Defense disagrees with SIGAR’s assertion that building the Command and Control facility at Camp Leatherneck, which was a military construction project and not a reconstruction project, may have been unnecessary. The requirement to build the facility was fully validated at the time it was constructed. U.S. Forces-Afghanistan’s (USFOR-A) recent investigation into the construction and use of this facility determined that established military construction contracting procedures to identify a requirement, justify the cost, request the funds, and validate the project were followed. The investigation found no violation of the law in requesting, validating, and constructing the facility, nor was there any finding of fraud, misrepresentation, or improper action.
The investigation found that USFOR-A, U.S. Army Central and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) conducted numerous planning sessions to determine whether Camp Leatherneck would be an enduring base in Afghanistan. The original request was based on requirements to support the surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and the process to complete the facility continued in line with CENTCOM’s strategic vision of the base as part of an enduring presence in Afghanistan.
Gen. Dunford, Commander, USFOR-A, will make a decision on the appropriate use for the building once the U.S. Government’s post-2014 enduring presence in Afghanistan, which may require use of the facility, is determined.
G-222 (C-27) Transport Planes
DoD and SIGAR representatives plan to meet to discuss SIGAR’s review of the Afghan Air Force G-222 [C-27] program. The DoD Inspector General audited this program extensively in 2012, and there has been scrutiny of this program in the public sphere in the past. The program began in 2007 when commanders on the ground in Afghanistan determined that the G-222 aircraft would meet a critical capability gap for the Afghan military. Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan provided the Department of the Air Force with $489M in funding from the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) to procure and refurbish the aircraft beginning in 2008. The G-222 aircraft were seen as an interim solution for the Afghan Air Force’s medium airlift needs. Although originally planned to serve these needs for up to 10 years after the first G-222 was delivered in late 2009, aircraft and contract performance limitations occurred, making it increasingly difficult to keep any of the aircraft operational.
Because there were relatively few other G-222s of the same variant in service anywhere in the world, manufacture of parts for the aircraft was in decline, resulting in significant supply chain challenges that became difficult to overcome. On Dec. 18, 2012, the Department of the Air Force notified Alenia Aermacchi North America that the contract to support 20 refurbished and modernized G-222 transport aircraft for the Afghan Air Force would not be renewed after it expired in March 2013. DoD is providing the Afghan Air Force with four C-130Hs to help meet its medium-lift cargo aircraft requirement; two were delivered in September 2013, and two more will be delivered in 2014.
At this point, the primary outstanding issue regarding the 20 G-222s procured for the Afghan Air Force is determining an alternate disposition of them. Prior to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 being signed into law, our authorities limited anything procured using ASFF to transfer to the Afghan Government. Because these aircraft are no longer going to be transferred to the Afghan Government, 16 of them remain parked at Kabul Airport and four remain in Germany because of the lack of alternate disposition authority. The 2014 NDAA that Congress passed and the President signed includes a provision giving DoD such authority.
Spare Vehicle Parts
Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan agreed with SIGAR’s recommendations and is working with NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and the Afghan Ministries of Defense (MoD) and Interior (MoI) to implement them. Developing and improving Afghan MoD and MoI sustainment capacity is one of DoD’s top priorities for our security assistance effort in Afghanistan.
Incinerators at Sharana and Leatherneck
These two projects were also military construction projects, not Afghanistan reconstruction projects. Currently, all bases in Afghanistan with a population of more than 100 personnel, except for two, have closed their burn pits and use alternative means of waste disposal. The two bases still using burn pits operate them under an approved waiver from USCENTCOM due to tactical requirements. These bases follow approved procedures for the proper operation of burn pits.
The assertion by SIGAR that open-air burn pit operations were conducted at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana in violation of USCENTCOM regulations was just published and is under review.
The Department of Defense takes the concerns associated with burn pit smoke exposure seriously and continues to study the possible long-term health effects of exposure to airborne hazards during deployments. DoD acknowledges that some individuals have experienced persistent symptoms or, in some cases, developed chronic respiratory diseases, possibly as a result of increased susceptibility, elevated exposures, combined exposures, preexisting health conditions, or other factors.
U.S. forces personnel complete two post-deployment health assessments (one at time of return and one approximately six months later). The assessments inquire into many aspects of health, including possible environmental exposures during deployments. Depending on the answers to these questions, personnel may be referred for further medical evaluation.