The Pentagon has long had problems getting its accounting straight. Enough problems, in fact, that auditing the Pentagon’s books was among the rare policy proposals in common between this year’s Republican and Democratic party platforms.
But when your agency’s main mission is to, basically, blow things up and facilitate the blowing up of things by your allies, financial reporting can be challenge.
Case in point: a recent audit report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). It found a five-year contract with contractor Afghanistan Integrated Support Services JV (AISS) to maintain the Afghan National Army’s 26,000-vehicle fleet, estimated to cost $182 million in 2010, will have ballooned to a projected $423 million by the time it and its extensions end in 2017. A new contract, meant to give the Afghan National Army (ANA) the “organic” capacity to take care of its own fleet, is expected to cost about $1 billion over five years.
“The failure of AISS to meet its most basic contract requirements and program objectives, and DOD’s inaction to correct contractor deficiencies and seek repayment of funds” has been a major waste of taxpayer funds, the SIGAR said in a report released July 28. “However, not providing this needed assistance would adversely impact the ability of the Afghan military to meet its counterinsurgency objectives and run counter to U.S. policy objectives.”
The report said there were a number of problems with the contract and its oversight, including an unwillingness by contracting oversight officers to stop payment when the contractor didn’t meet goals, a lack of security that made on-site checks of maintenance sites difficult, problems with literacy that complicated training Afghan mechanics and differences in the way the vehicle readiness was calculated.
“To illustrate, DOD’s December 2014 Afghan National Security Forces–Logistics Information Paper reported that the operational readiness rate for the ANA fleet of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles had never been over 90 percent, and that it then stood at 57 percent; at the same time, AISS’s quarterly report stated that the operational readiness rate for all vehicles was over 95 percent,” the report said.
“While AISS used advisor mentor teams embedded in Afghan battalions to conduct on-the-job training, low literacy rates and cultural differences also hindered their ANA maintenance training efforts,” it continues. “CSTC-A Training Program Support Office officials were aware of these and other program challenges, including poor attendance at training, low retention rates of trained ANA personnel, and a limited pool of ANA managers who possessed the skills necessary to manage the supply chain and maintenance shops.”
In its response, the Defense Department said it concurred with the report’s recommendations and said it would use the lessons learned from it in overseeing current and future contracts. In a July 25 letter to the SIGAR, Jedidiah Royal, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense, said measures of progress have been changed to include a goal of getting 80 percent of work orders completed in a 15-day period.
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