Serious questions are being asked after a report came out last month revealing that the Pentagon has wasted at least $28 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money over the past 10 years, buying the wrong type of uniforms for Afghan soldiers.
A watchdog report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published a 17-page report, dated June 20, along with a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis, noting that the Pentagon made the decision in 2007 to purchase camouflage uniforms for Afghan National Defense and Security Forces personnel – but the camouflage style chosen featured a wooded, forest pattern instead of a more appropriate desert pattern.
In total, the report said the Pentagon has now spent $93 million on uniforms for the Afghan soldiers since 2007 by purchasing 1.3 million uniforms, plus 88,000 extra pairs of pants, all in a forest camo pattern that was completely inappropriate for the environment in which they would be used.
To top it off, the style chosen was about $26 million to $28 million more expensive than if they had purchased the desert camo pattern. (Scroll down for more.)
SIGAR also reported that special tailoring features increased the cost of the uniforms, and that extra money was spent on a licensed camouflage pattern when free versions were available. As much as $71 million could be saved over the next 10 years if future uniform orders are switched to a cheaper pattern, the report said.
Mattis slammed the wasteful spending by the Pentagon in a return memo obtained by USA Today, writing in no uncertain terms, “Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur.” Additionally, his letter stated:
“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department’s responsibilities and budget.
“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 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.
“Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all (Department of Defense) organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices — and take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department. I’m counting on all hands to take effective action.”
Several members of Congress are also demanding answers over the waste, including Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
“This is a contracting decision that makes you smack your head in frustration,” McCaskill said in a statement. “It’s a prime example of wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of how this happened.”
To date, American taxpayers have spent $93 million on uniforms for soldiers in the Afghan military over the past 10 years, and plans are clearly in place for purchases over the next 10 years.
About Gen. Mattis
Mattis was born on September 8, 1950, in Pullman, Washington. He is the son of Lucille (Proulx) Mattis and John West Mattis (1915–1988), a merchant mariner. His mother immigrated to the United States from Canada as an infant and had worked in Army Intelligence in South Africa during the Second World War. Mattis’ father moved to Richland, Washington to work at a plant supplying fissile material to the Manhattan Project. Mattis was raised in a bookish household that did not own a television. He graduated from Columbia High School in 1968. He earned a B.A. degree in history from Central Washington University in 1971. He later earned an M.A. in international security affairs from the National War College in 1994.
James Norman Mattis is the 26th and current United States Secretary of Defense, serving in the Trump Administration. Mattis is a retired United States Marine Corps general who previously served as the 11th Commander of United States Central Command and was responsible for American military operations in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Central Asia, from August 11, 2010, to March 22, 2013.
Before President Barack Obama appointed him to replace General David Petraeus on August 11, 2010, Mattis previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command from November 9, 2007, to August 2010 and served concurrently as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007, to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.
On January 20, 2017, Mattis was confirmed as Secretary of Defense 98–1 by the United States Senate on a waiver, as he had only been three years out of active duty despite US federal law requiring a seven-year cooling off period for retired military personnel to be appointed Secretary of Defense. He was the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed.
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