The U.S. military spent more than $3 million on patrol boats for Afghanistan in 2010 and then quietly canceled the shipment several months later with no explanation, leaving costly patrol boats unused in a Virginia warehouse for the past several years, according to new information released by a government watchdog group.
It has come to light that the military and Defense Department cannot explain why the money was wasted due to "lapses in record keeping" that have resulted in files detailing the purchase being lost, according to an investigation by the Special Investigator for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
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"The military has been unable to provide records that would answer the most basic questions surrounding this $3 million purchase," SIGAR revealed Thursday.
The eight patrol boats were initially purchased for the Afghan National Police (ANP) and were to be used on patrols along Afghanistan’s border with Uzbekistan. However, nine months after the purchase, the order was quietly canceled and the boats were sent to a Navy storage house in Yorktown, Va., where they "currently sit unused," according to SIGAR.
The Navy and other officials still have not explained how it plans to dispose of the boats and how much money it has cost to store them in Virginia.
The mystery surrounding the canceled shipment is particularly noteworthy because border patrols have been designated as a priority for Afghan security forces.
"The list of unanswered questions is particularly troubling given the fact … that this program had been an important national security priority for the Afghan National Security Forces prior to its cancellation," SIGAR head John Sopko wrote to top military leaders last week in a letter released Thursday.
The Obama administration has a history of misplacing critical records that would help SIGAR provide oversight on the billions of dollars that have been spent on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.
"This is not the first time SIGAR has been confronted with lapses in record keeping, which hinder our ability to conduct our congressionally mandated mission to oversee U.S. reconstruction funds," Sopko wrote. "In this case, the lack of records makes it especially difficult to discern the history of the procurement and cancellation decisions."
Due to these missing files, it has become impossible to determine how the patrol boats were to be used, whether proper reviews were conducted before the $3 million was spent, documentation of the purchase being approved, justification for the purchase, and how it was decided to cancel the shipment, according to SIGAR.
SIGAR only became aware of the issue in April, but has been stonewalled by military leaders since attempting to investigate the situation.
"I became concerned about this procurement action following a review of email correspondence indicating that these patrol boats were bought, but never delivered to the ANP," Sopko wrote in a separate piece of correspondence to the secretary of the Navy.
After speaking with various Navy officials and other insiders, Sopko determined that the patrol boats were purchased for more than $3 million in October 2010.
"Less than nine months later" the shipment was canceled despite the boats being "almost fully built."
"After the patrol boats were completed, they were transferred to storage facilities at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in 2011," Sopko wrote.
Sopko’s initial April investigation into the situation, which included what little documentation of the purchase still exists, also went largely unanswered.