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Criminal Government Waste? Probe Launched over $28M 'Forest' Uniforms for Afghan Troops


The U.S. inspector general, who monitors government spending in Afghanistan, said he has launched a criminal investigation into why the Pentagon may have wasted up to $28 million taxpayer funds during the last 10 years.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, is looking into the wasteful spending on Afghan National Army uniforms.

The camouflage patterns on the uniforms in question appear to be inappropriate for combat regions throughout most of Afghanistan, of which only about 2.1 percent of the land is wooded, he said. He added the uniforms were never tested to determine whether the pattern would be effective in Afghanistan.

"It is too early in the investigation to determine if stupidity, corruption or a broken system led to the United States purchasing about 1.3 million uniforms for the Afghan army in a woodland camouflage pattern," Sopko said.

Sopko called for a review of all contracts awarded by the Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, which oversees Afghan uniform and equipment procurement. He says he doesn't understand why CSTC-A went with the Canadian-based company, HyperStealth, instead of using one of 12 Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.

The DOD-owned patterns would have been free for the Afghan army to acquire.

"As we all know, oversight is mission critical," Sopko told members of the House Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations. "We cannot afford to wait until we waste millions of dollars before we try to fix it."

He warned if the program is not adjusted quickly, it could cost American taxpayers another $72 million in unnecessary spending on camouflage pattern licensing and other specialty fees during the next decade.

Sopko says that to date, his investigators found the United States has spent about $93 million on the Afghan uniforms.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent a memo top Pentagon officials last week, calling the poor spending decisions by the Defense Department "cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur." 

He ordered officials to find "wasteful practices and take aggressive steps" to eliminate unneeded spending.

Right now, however, the only thing the DOD has done is start a study.

Sopko says the bigger problem is fixing the way the U.S. government works and spends money.

"It's broken. I hate to say it, the system is broken on accountability because we are not holding people accountable," said Sopko. "Because by the time we get out there the money has been spent and the person who is involved is either retired or long gone. Because there is a two-year or shorter appropriation cycle and everyone's got the incentive to spend money."

Sopko says military contracting officers have told him they get rewarded at the end of the year on how much money they spend and not on whether the contract is good for the country.

Sopko then scolded lawmakers for allowing this to happen.

"We have to change that system. I would highly recommend you take a look at the HR system in the Defense Department, take a look at the procurement system, take a look at the incentives that you are allowing to occur which create this problem,"  Sopko told the House panel.

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