WASHINGTON - After a recent report found that six projects in Afghanistan costing almost $400 million are at risk of failure, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is demanding answers.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report identified projects funded by the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund that are incomplete and may not be able to be sustained once transferred to Afghan control. Despite these concerns, the Defense and State Departments did not agree with SIGAR’s recommendations on ways to improve oversight over the programs.
“You can’t just throw hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at a project and hope all goes well, but that’s what the government is doing,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Many of these projects are behind schedule, all six of them are at risk of failure—the Departments of State and Defense need to step up their oversight now.”
SIGAR reported that six projects to improve infrastructure in Afghanistan are at risk of failure. The Defense and State Departments did not develop plans to properly sustain three of the projects after they were transferred to the Afghan government. The remaining three projects are incomplete, up to five years behind schedule, and also lack any plans for the Afghan government to sustain them once transferred. In addition, all six lack any performance metrics to determine the success of the projects once complete. “These failures reportedly put at risk almost $400 million in U.S. taxpayer money,” McCaskill wrote to the State and Defense Departments. While SIGAR made recommendations to improve oversight, the agencies indicated that they will not implement some of them. McCaskill is calling for answers on why they are not planning to follow SIGAR’s recommendations and what actions they are taking to prevent the projects from failing.
McCaskill has lead efforts to eliminate wasteful U.S. government spending overseas since joining the Senate. During her first term, she passed an historic reform bill overhauling how federal contracts are awarded and monitored during military contingencies. Earlier this year, she called for answers on a Defense Department contract to provide counterinsurgency intelligence experts to mentor and train the Afghan National Security Forces after a review of the contract called into question $50 million in expenses—including seven luxury vehicles and $400,000 average salaries for significant others of corporate officers to serve as “executive assistants.” She also demanded answers this year after a report showed that the State Department routinely paid a contractor to oversee foreign assistance programs in Iraq without properly verifying the contractor’s claimed costs and expenses.
Read McCaskill’s letters to the Departments of State and Defense HERE.