Boondoggle U

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember and honor those who have served our country. That so many came home wounded, and so many did not come home at all, more than justifies our reverence for their contributions to our society. Born in England in 1941, I also extend my thanks to my mother, to my father and so many others in my extended family who served valiantly, both in war and in peace.

There’s talk these days about how the US should respond to the increasing threat posed by ISIS. Very few of us want us to again send troops to solve a problem that ultimately cannot be solved by troops. (Unless we want Iraq/Syria to become a US Territory like Puerto Rico.)

I’m assuming that the facts presented in the article below are true. Given my understanding of how those in the clown car we call Washington DC work, none of this should surprise me. But it re-inforces my reluctance for us to get further involved in the crap that is Iraq/Syria these days. I can’t see how anything we do is going to fundamentally change the leadership dynamics over there which is tribalism at its finest, supported by religious beliefs that by and large, we don’t share.

The point is we lost thousands of military lives, sacrificed countless civilian lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while some of this intervention by the U.S. and its allies was probably justified, the outcome we see today is increasingly unfavorable. The money spent is gone; the money unspent on our next overseas adventure could be much better spent here at home.

by Megan McCloskey and Vince Dixon / ProPublica, May 20, 2015

This is a story about how the U.S. military built a lavish headquarters in Afghanistan that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted and wasn’t ever used—at a cost to American taxpayers of at least $25 million.

From start to finish, this 64,000-square-foot mistake could easily have been avoided. Not one, not two, but three generals tried to kill it. And they were overruled, not because they were wrong, but seemingly because no one wanted to cancel a project Congress had already given them money to build.

In the process, the story of “64K” reveals a larger truth: Once wartime spending gets rolling there’s almost no stopping it. In Afghanistan, the reconstruction effort alone has cost $109 billion, with questionable results.

The 64K project was meant for troops due to flood the country during the temporary surge in 2010. But even under the most optimistic estimates, the project wouldn’t be completed until six months after those troops would start going home.

Along the way, the state-of-the-art building, plopped in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, nearly doubled in cost and became a running joke among Marines. The Pentagon could have halted construction at many points—64K made it through five military reviews over two years—but didn’t, saying it wanted the building just in case U.S. troops ended up staying. (They didn’t.)

The Pentagon brass chalked up their decisions on the project to the inherent uncertainty of executing America’s longest war and found no wrongdoing. To them, 64K’s beginning, middle and end “was prudent.”

The $25-million price tag is a conservative number. The military also built roads and major utilities for the base at a cost of more than $20 million, some of it for 64K.

Ultimately, this story is but one chapter in a very thick book that few read. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) routinely documents jaw-dropping waste, but garners only fleeting attention. Just like the special inspector general for Iraq did with its own reports.

With 64K, SIGAR laid bare how this kind of waste happens and called out the players by name. The following timeline is based on the inspector general’s report, supporting documents and ProPublica interviews.

Note: I found this via a FaceBook newsfeed from The Christian Left. There is too much for me to add to this post. If you are truly intersted in this, I’d much rather direct you to the source material that has great charts and timelines to help the reader understand the dimensions of this boondoggle. CONTINUE-READING