ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Taxpayers Fund Yet Another Unneeded Building in Afghanistan

The U.S. military shelled out millions before deciding the project was unnecessary, bringing the total for unused buildings spotted by the Inspector General for Afghanistan to nearly $42 million.

The unfinished headquarters for a Special Forces base in Kandahar. (Courtesy of SIGAR)

The beat goes on. For the third time in four months, the watchdog for spending on the war in Afghanistan has released a report that shows the U.S. military commissioned a multimillion-dollar building in Afghanistan it didn’t need.

This time around, it’s a headquarters for a Special Forces base in Kandahar that was canceled halfway through at a cost of $2.2 million.

The latest disclosure raises the total for surplus buildings uncovered by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to nearly $42 million. There was the $25 million headquarters in Helmand that three generals said was not needed but was built anyway and never used. Then there was a warehouse in Kandahar for $14.7 million that was also never used, because the unit for which it was intended ended its mission in Afghanistan before the building was completed.

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In the latest report released Tuesday, SIGAR detailed how the military decided in July 2012 that it wanted a new, single headquarters on Camp Brown in Kandahar. The camp was home to troops with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. (SIGAR also sent the Pentagon a more detailed, classified letter about its findings on the building.)

The military hired an Afghan company to build a $5 million, two-story building with administrative space and a secure communications room for logistics, maintenance, personnel and operations management, according to the report. The building was scheduled to be completed in July 2013 – just as the United States greatly reduced its military presence in the country and only 18 months before the combat mission was scheduled to end.

The contractor, Road and Roof Construction Company, fell almost a year behind schedule, and in October 2013, the commanders whose troops had been assigned to occupy the building decided it was no longer needed, SIGAR said.

Six months later, the military canceled the project.

By this time, $2.2 million had already been spent. The building remains half constructed, with no stairs to the second floor, electrical wiring or plumbing, SIGAR said. It has never been used.

Military officials told SIGAR that they halted construction because the operations planned for the region had changed, making Camp Brown’s existing facilities sufficient. The inspectors said this decision was reasonable, but suggested that the military should consider completing the building for the Afghan government’s use.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the contract, told SIGAR that it was still negotiating a final settlement with the contractor. Because negligence was not involved in the cancellation, it’s possible that the company could demand the rest of the contract be paid.

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