Latest Spending Outrage in Afghanistan: Pentagon’s $43 Million Gas Station

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Pentagon's $43 million gas station in Afghanistan (photo: SIGAR)

News that the Department of Defense spent more than $40 million in taxpayer money on a natural gas refueling station in still-very-undeveloped Afghanistan provoked outrage from lawmakers in Congress.

 

First, there was the obvious response: Are there any cars in the war-torn country running on natural gas? Uh, not really, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, whose staff did its best to investigate the project despite efforts by the Pentagon to thwart them.

 

“No evidence exists that [the Defense task force] conducted a feasibility study before spending $43 million on the station,” Sopko wrote in his report (pdf). “If TFBSO (Task Force for Business and Stability Operations) had conducted a feasibility study of the project, had conducted a feasibility study of the project, they might have noted that Afghanistan lacks the natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure necessary to support a viable market for [compressed natural gas] vehicles.” 

 

Then there was the cost. A similar gas station was built in neighboring Pakistan for only $500,000. The one in Afghanistan, which began as a $3 million contract for Central Asian Engineering (currently operating as Central Asia Development Group), somehow ballooned to $43 million after cost overruns.

 

Defense officials have not explained to SIGAR how it allowed such a useless project to proceed, let alone go so far over budget.

 

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the project “outrageous” and “wasteful.”

 

“There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” McCaskill said in a statement. “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. … Perhaps equally outrageous, however, is that the Pentagon has apparently shirked its responsibility to fully account for the taxpayer money that’s been wasted—an unacceptable lack of transparency that I’ll be thoroughly investigating.”

 

Nor is Sopko done looking into this boondoggle. “I intend to continue our inquiry into TFBSO activities to shed additional light on how this program operated, what it achieved, how this enormous amount of money was spent, and whether any conduct by TFBSO staff or contractors was criminal in nature,” he wrote.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Watchdog Ridicules Pentagon’s $43M Gas Station in Afghanistan, Calling it Exorbitant (by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive)

DoD Pays Premium for Gas Station in Afghanistan (by Neil Gordon, Project On Government Oversight)

DOD’S Compressed Natural Gas Filling Station in Afghanistan: An Ill-Conceived $43 Million Project (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) (pdf)

Wasted Spending in Afghanistan Keeps Skyrocketing as U.S. Military Blows Millions on another Unneeded Operations Center (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Cuts back its Watchdogs after Billions Lost and Billions More to be spent on Escalating Afghanistan War (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

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