U.S. wasted billions on unsustainable wartime contracts in Iraq & Afghanistan

Tarakhil Power Plant in Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO SOURCE: U.S. Agency for International Development

The United States has wasted billions on wartime projects that will likely fail once American troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new report released by the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

The report, “Sustainability: Hidden costs risk new waste,” criticized the Defense Department, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for failing to make “adequate plans to ensure that host nations will be able to operate and maintain U.S.-funded projects on their own.”

Tarakhil Power Plant in Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO SOURCE: U.S. Agency for International Development

The report cited the following examples:

  • In Iraq, the U.S. paid contractors $345 million to build and equip 133 primary health care centers. However, the centers built without considering whether the Iraqi Ministry of Health is capable of assuming the centers’ operations after the U.S. withdrawal.
  • Iraq’s Nassiriya water treatment plant cost the U.S. $300 million, but it was built without access to reliable and affordable electric power supply. The result? The plant is operating intermittently and producing “murky water that many locals won’t use.”
  • In Afghanistan, more than $300 million were spent on building the Tarakhil Power Plant to provide affordable and reliable electricity to the Kabul area. Although construction has been completed, the power plant remains idle because the Afghan government cannot afford the high cost of fuel to run the plant. Instead, the Afghan government is importing electricity from neighboring Uzbekistan at a fraction of the cost to operate the Tarakhil plant.
  • Since 2002, the U.S. has spent more than $35 billion to set up and train the Afghan National Security Forces. More than $5 billion of the $13 billion FY2012 budget will spent on paying and equipping the Afghan security forces. Given the Afghan government’s domestic revenues at only $2 billion, “the International Monetary Fund has concluded that the Afghan government will be incapable of paying ANSF costs until at least 2023.”

The Commission’s report attributed the wasteful spendings “overly ambitious proposals, incomplete analysis, poor planning, weak coordination, and inadequate follow-through by federal officials” and the failure to “take into account the host country’s technical and financial capabilities to operate and maintain” projects. The Commission is recommending that the Defense Department, State Department, and USAID re-evaluate the sustainability of their projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, cancel or redesign projects that are not sustainable, and ensure that any new projects they contract would include a detailed assessment on the host country’s ability to continue the projects after U.S. withdrawal.

“No matter how well a project or program has been set up and executed, it can turn into waste if we hand it over to a host government that can’t supply trained people to run it, pay for supplies, or perform essential maintenance,” said Commission Co-Chair Michael Thibault.

 

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Contact information for the Commission on Wartime Contracting

Email: commentline@wartimecontracting.gov

Tel: (703) 696-9362

Address:
Commission on Wartime Contracting
Attn: Robert B. Dickson, Executive Director
1401 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22209

 

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