Defense Secretary James Mattis ripped Pentagon officials for their “cavalier” spending following a recent report that the Defense Department spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that don’t match up with the country’s terrain.
In a July 21 memo released to reporters on Monday, Mattis addressed a June Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. The document found that DOD began buying the forest-patterned uniforms in 2007, after a former Afghan defense minister saw them online and liked them.
The uniforms were purchased without testing to be used in a country that's just 2 percent woodland.
“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a 10-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department's responsibilities and budget,” Mattis wrote in the memo that was addressed to the undersecretaries for policy, comptroller and acquisition, technology and logistics.
“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis continued in the memo.
Mattis said a key finding of the SIGAR report was that the Pentagon personnel can reach a “complacent mode of thinking” if not careful.
“The report is an indication of a frame of mind — an attitude that can affect any of us at the Pentagon or across the Department of Defense — showing how those of us entrusted with supporting and equipping troops on the battlefield, if we let down our guard, can lose focus on ensuring their safety and lethality against the enemy,” he writes.
The SIGAR report also drew lawmakers’ attention.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), meanwhile, called the findings “embarrassing and an affront to U.S. taxpayers.”
A House Armed Services panel will address the report on Tuesday, during a hearing with Inspector General John Sopko.
Mattis concluded that the report should be used as a motivator to prevent future wasteful spending.
“Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all DoD organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices — and to take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department," Mattis writes.