ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

The Military Built Another Multimillion-Dollar Building in Afghanistan That No One Used

In its latest report, the inspector general found that the U.S. military continued to build a $14.7 million warehouse after it knew it wasn’t needed, echoing an earlier investigation into an unused $25 million HQ.

The construction project included four warehouses, like the one above, and an administration building. (Courtesy of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction)

Unlike many buildings commissioned by the U.S. in Afghanistan, the new military warehouse facility in Kandahar was well built, an inspector general investigation concluded.

There was, however, one glaring problem: no one was around to use the gleaming, $14.7 million complex. The four warehouses and an administration building were empty, because the intended occupants, the Defense Logistics Agency, had already ended their mission in Kandahar.

The Army had decided to send DLA home in August 2013, six months before the warehouses were completed. The project, however, “continued uninterrupted,” without any attempts to reevaluate or downsize it, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. Instead, the military added $400,000 of modifications to the buildings — knowing DLA would never use it, SIGAR wrote in a report released today.

In the end, the facility finished two years behind schedule and cost $1.2 million more than anticipated.

As combat operations in Afghanistan concluded in 2014, a familiar pattern emerged with the military’s construction projects: They were routinely over budget, past deadline and often never used.

ProPublica previously reported on the $25 million, 64,000-square-foot headquarters built for the U.S. Marines in Helmand province. That building, tricked out with luxe modifications, went unused for similar reasons, but the military has nonetheless deemed its construction “prudent.” The military declined to discipline anyone involved with what came to be called “64K.”

This type of wasteful spending and the military’s seeming nonchalance about it came up this month as part of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford’s confirmation as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top position in the military. Dunford, while in charge of Afghanistan operations in 2013, ordered and signed off on an investigation into the 64K building that SIGAR said was shallow, flawed and remiss in not holding anyone accountable.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asked Dunford in writing whether, given SIGAR’s findings, he is “concerned that the investigation into this matter was inadequate.”

Dunford must respond to written questions from McCaskill and the rest of the Senate Armed Services Committee before his confirmation is approved.

Meanwhile, by December, the Kandahar warehouse complex will be turned over to the Afghan government with air conditioning and fire suppression systems that, like 64K, are too sophisticated for them to use. And it’s unclear whether the Afghans want or have the money to make use of it.

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