McCaskill: $86 Million for Failed Aerial Counternarcotics Surveillance Effort in Afghanistan ‘an inexcusable waste of taxpayer money’

Contact: Sarah Feldman – 202-228-6263 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is demanding answers from the Drug Enforcement Agency on a failed joint program to modify a large aircraft to conduct counternarcotics surveillance efforts in Afghanistan. At a cost to taxpayers of more than $86 million, the aircraft remains inoperable.   

“I am writing you regarding the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Global Discovery program, a counternarcotics effort in Afghanistan that DEA conducted in partnership with the Department of Defense,” wrote McCaskill in the letter to the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The primary purpose of this program was the purchase and modification of a large aircraft to provide DEA aerial surveillance capabilities in the combat environment of Afghanistan. A recent U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report identified that the Global Discovery program has cost taxpayers more than $86 million, yet the aircraft, in the OIG’s words, ‘remains inoperable, resting on jacks, and has never actually flown in Afghanistan.’ Given the DEA’s drawdown in Afghanistan, it is likely the aircraft, if it is ever completed, will never fly there.” 

McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and the top-ranking Democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, raised a number of oversight concerns contained in a report from the top watchdog at the Department of Justice, including: 

  • The Global Discovery program was initially intended to be completed in 2012, but instead has missed every subsequent delivery date. The aircraft now has a planned delivery date of June 2016, but given the program’s history it appears likely that this date will not be met, either.  
  • At the same time that the delivery date has continually been extended, the DEA has admitted that the aircraft will not be completed with all the required modifications to the aircraft. 
  • The DEA failed to comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and its own solicitation in purchasing the aircraft. The DEA did not take into account the cost it would incur to establish an infrastructure of pilots, mechanics, trainers, and spare parts required to operate a new type of aircraft. The DEA also failed to evaluate each bid received on the factors it listed in its solicitation, potentially awarding a contract for an aircraft that did not meet DEA’s requirements. 
  • The DOD awarded a $1.9 million contract for a hanger to store the DEA aircraft, but the aircraft was never housed there, and likely never will be. 
  • The OIG audited a select number of expenditures made by the Global Discovery Program, and among those expenditures alone found more than $2 million in unallowable and unsupported costs. 
  • DEA had no performance metrics to determine whether the Global Discovery program was an effective part of DEA’s counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.  Reviewing the reports that DEA filed on the missions flown using available aircraft, OIG found that DEA’s data was not accurate. 
  • DEA spent nearly $50,000 in travel to oversee the Global Discovery contract, even though contract oversight for this program clearly failed. 

McCaskill, who in 2010 began investigating insufficient oversight of counternarcotics contracts at the Departments of State and Defense that made it impossible to know if tax dollars are being used properly, released a report that showed federal agencies do not have systems in place to adequately track money spent on more than $3 billion in counternarcotics contracts or evaluate whether those contracts are achieving their goals. 

McCaskill has led a successful effort to end hundreds of millions in taxpayer spending on unsustainable overseas projects, bring those resources home, and increase accountability for the remaining U.S.-Afghan projects. During her first term in the Senate, McCaskill waged a successful six-year battle to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ultimately passed into law the most expansive reforms to wartime contracting practices since World War II. 

Full text of the letter can be found HERE. 

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