War Waste in the Crosshairs

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., said members were eager to see that further waste such as was revealed in a recent Pentagon audit was not repeated.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three top U.S. auditors briefed a House Armed Services panel Tuesday on discomfiting reports of uncontrolled spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reports had all been posted online earlier this year. But the effect of presenting them in a single hearing was striking.

First, the Defense Department had spent as much as $28 million since 2008 buying “unnecessary, untested and costly” uniforms for Afghan security forces, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told the Oversight and Investigations panel.

Four days earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis had issued a blistering memo on the uniforms audit to officials overseeing Afghan security forces funding. The audit reveals “a complacent mode of thinking” in the acquisition bureaucracy, Mattis wrote. “Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective or wasteful manner are not to recur.”

Secondly, a Pentagon web-based system designed to track shipments of weapons, equipment and vehicles under the Iraq Train and Equip program had “limited visibility and accountability” over them, said Jessica Farb, director of International Affairs and Trade at the Government Accountability Office. America has spent more than $2 billion since fiscal 2015 on that program, she said.

What’s more, the Army 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s oversight of the same program was lacking, said Michael Roark, an assistant inspector general in the Pentagon.

Roark told of more than 13,000 shotguns and rifles worth some $20 million that he said the Army was not adequately tracking and securing in Iraq and Kuwait.

Pentagon officials said at the House hearing that they are addressing the issues. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., the subcommittee chairwoman, said she is “eager to know specifically how to avoid similar missteps in the future.”

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