Published July 10, 2013
The U.S. military blew through $34 million on a hulking headquarters in southwestern Afghanistan that probably will never be used by U.S. forces, in an example of government waste that has military commanders fuming.
John F. Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, exposed the problems in a letter this week to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military leaders. The Washington Post first reported on the controversy, writing that the construction of the building continued for years despite warnings from the Marine commander in Helmand that it was not needed.
The military is now investigating what went wrong, and is trying to figure out what to do with the 64,000-square-foot facility in Camp Leatherneck.
"The building will probably be demolished," Sopko said in his letter, citing the opinion of military officials his office spoke with. Another option is to give it to the Afghans, but doing so would require another major overhaul.
Sopko and others are raising alarm at the fact the project continued despite the diminishing need for it. In his letter, Sopko said it appeared to be one of the "best constructed" buildings he's seen in the country.
"Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose," he said. "Military officials explained that 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 project started after President Obama ordered a surge in southern Afghanistan in 2009. Planners wanted to install a sophisticated facility.
Yet a top commander later sent U.S. headquarters in Kabul a memo, according to the Post, telling them the building was not needed. The Post reports that the warning was ignored by contract officers.
"What the hell were they thinking?" a two-star Army general, who was not named, told the Post.