IG: Pentagon spent $43M on project that should have cost $300K

IG: Pentagon spent $43M on project that should have cost $300K
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The Pentagon spent $43 million on a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost about $300,000, according to a special inspector general report released Monday.

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter accompanying the report.

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The station in question was built in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, and was meant to show Afghan citizens the viability of natural gas, according to the report. The project, known as the Downstream Gas Utilization, was part of the Task Force for Business & Stability Operations (TFBSO).

The original contract for the station was for $3 million, according to the report.

But between 2011 and 2014, the task force spent $42.7 million on the project, $30 million of which was for overhead costs, according to the report.

SIGAR found a similar natural gas station in Pakistan cost $500,000, which would equal $306,000 at the current exchange rate.

“In short, at $43 million, the TFBSO filling station cost 140 times as much as a CNG station in Pakistan,” the report says.

The task force ended in March. Because of that, the Pentagon told the special inspector general it no longer had the personnel or documentation to answer why the cost ballooned, according to the report.

The Pentagon did not dispute any facts or findings in a draft of the report, according to the comments page of the report.

In a letter responding to the findings attached to the report, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian P. McKeon reiterated that the closure of the task force meant certain questions couldn’t be answered. He added SIGAR didn’t take up his office’s offer of help to find documents and people who might have information, which the report disputes.

In response to the report, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillCalif. gov candidates battle for second place Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee MORE (D-Mo.) wrote a letter Monday to Carter asking for answers on the task force and station.

“There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” McCaskill said in a press release announcing her letter.

“But of all the examples of wasteful projects in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon began prior to our wartime contracting reforms, this genuinely shocked me. It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000 percent more than it should and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational.”

McCaskill asked Carter for the name and title of the person or office now responsible for projects started by the task force; any feasibility study done for the natural gas station project; any audit, reviews or assessments of the task; and the names of anyone still at the Pentagon who supervised the task force.

She asked for that information by Nov. 23.