Pentagon wasted $34 mln on unused Afghan base

Pentagon wasted $34 mln on unused Afghan base
Wed Jul 10, 2013 22:26:05

US military has constructed a $34 million building in southwestern Afghanistan, to be used as its headquarters but as the US scales back its troops, the brand new 64,000 square foot building may soon be demolished.

In 2009, military officials based in South Carolina and the Pentagon issued contracts for the construction of the two-story building, which they planned to use as headquarters for the Marine forces at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan.

Military commanders protested its construction, arguing that there was no use for the extravagant structure.

The Pentagon awarded a private British firm, AMEC Earth and Environment, a contract to build the headquarters.

Construction began in November 2011, even though President Obama had already announced the end of the surge and the impending withdrawal.

The extravagant project was completed this year, costing the US government $34 million – even though the military now has no plans to use it.

The two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, features a briefing theater, large offices, 110-volt outlets for US appliances, luxurious chairs and furniture, equipment to wage modern war, and powerful air conditioning and heating systems that require costly amounts of electricity.

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a letter that the structure is “the best constructed building I have seen in my travels to Afghanistan.”

But the construction of this building represents a common problem that can be seen throughout Afghanistan: the US has wasted millions of dollars on buildings that stand empty or incomplete as the military scales back its troops. 

“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose,” Sopko wrote. “This is an example of what is wrong with military construction in general -- once a project is started, it is very difficult to stop.”

The US must now decide whether to hand over the facility to the Afghan army or demolish it.

Since the huge windowless building is equipped for US appliances and requires expensive fuel purchases for its generators, it may be difficult for Afghans to sustain.

“What the hell were they thinking? There was never any justification to build something this fancy,” a two-star Army general based in Afghanistan told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

“The building will probably be demolished,” the two-star Army general told the Post.

The wasteful spending on extravagant structures in Afghanistan closely mirrors US spending in Iraq.

The US spent $60 billion to rebuild Iraq, but a final report from Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen concluded that more than $9 billion was wasted.

After US troops withdrew from Iraq, they left behind a plethora of abandoned projects, including a 3,600-bed prison that cost $40 million, a $165 million children’s hospital that remains unused, and a $108 million wastewater treatment center that remains unfinished.

Building materials worth $1.2 million were abandoned when fears of violence prompted the US to abandon construction of the prison.

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