Watchdog: Pentagon wastes $28M on forest camouflage in Afghanistan

Watchdog: Pentagon wastes $28M on forest camouflage in Afghanistan
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The Pentagon bought forest-colored camouflage uniforms for the Afghan army despite the country’s dearth of forests after a former defense minister “liked what he saw” online, according to an inspector general report released Wednesday.

In choosing those uniforms, which were a company’s proprietary pattern, the Pentagon spent up to $28 million more than it otherwise would have had it bought the Afghan National Army (ANA) uniforms with a nonproprietary pattern, the report said.

“DOD procured ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns,” the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said in the report. “As a result, neither DOD nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy.”

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Between November 2008 and January 2017, the Pentagon spent about $93.81 million for 1,364,602 uniforms and 88,010 extra pairs of pants for the Afghan army that were made using a proprietary camouflage pattern, according to the report.

The uniform was chosen after U.S. forces in Afghanistan found HyperStealth’s website and showed then-Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak.

“In email correspondence from Feb. 2007, those responsible DOD officials stated that they ran across [HyperStealth’s] web site and the Minister [then Minister of Defense Wardak] liked what he saw. He [the Minister] liked the woodland, urban, and temperate patterns,” the report says.

The Afghan defense ministry then chose the forest pattern despite the fact that just 2.1 percent of Afghanistan is forest, according to the report.

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The pattern was owned by HyperStealth, meaning the Pentagon had to pay a licensing fee. That, plus some design features, made the uniforms cost 40 to 43 percent more than comparable Afghan National Police uniforms, or $26 million to $28 million more, according to the report.

In a written response included in the report, the Pentagon said it agreed with the recommendation to do a cost-benefit analysis of the current Afghan army uniforms and promised to provide the inspector general with that review when it’s done.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKavanaugh returns questionnaire to Senate panel Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary, said the report is “embarrassing.” 

“By then, the United States already had been involved in Afghanistan for years,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “You’d think the Pentagon would have had a good handle on how to pick the right camouflage for uniforms. Instead, the Defense Department gave up control of the purchase and spent an extra $28 million on the wrong pattern just because someone in Afghanistan liked it. It’s embarrassing and an affront to U.S. taxpayers. Those who wasted money on the wrong camouflage uniforms seem to have lost sight of their common sense.”