Congress asks DOD why $43 million was used on Afghan gas station

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) was established in 2006 in Iraq to assist in revitalizing that country’s economy and creating jobs. In 2010, TFBSO began operations in Afghanistan aimed at creating economic opportunities for people in order to increase stability, reduce violence, and restore economic normalcy in areas suffering from unrest and insurgency. Photo Credit: TFBSO

An “ill-conceived” gas station project in Afghanistan cost a whopping $43 million dollars and now it has some in Congress scratching their heads.  Lawmakers are questioning  how the Defense Dept. could have spent that much money on a project, that was “likely a waste” from the beginning.

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations reportedly spent $42,718,739 from 2011 through 2014 to build and operate the compressed natural gas ‘Sheberghan CNG’ station.

But according to the Washington Times, projects like this in Afghanistan should cost only about $200,000.  A similar project in Pakistan cost around $300,000. The Pentagon has offered no answers as to why this particular price tag was so high.

It gets worse. The inspector general who oversees U.S. spending on Afghanistan reconstruction says the Pentagon can’t even account for who made the decisions behind the waste.

John Sopko called the cost for the green energy project “exorbitant.”

In a letter Mr. Sopko sent to the Secretary of Defense, he said the following: “Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about [the task force], an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago.”

Sopko says the Pentagon seems “particularly intent” on protecting the business task force from scrutiny.

The Defense Dept. has stated that the task force that built the project has since been shut down so it’s no longer answering any questions about the decisions it made.

The goal of the project, was to try to demonstrate to Afghanistan the feasibility of using compressed natural gas, rather than relying on imported oil to fuel vehicles. But the task force didn’t regularly bother to conduct “feasibility studies” for its projects, so it failed to realize Afghanistan doesn’t have transmission or ‘distribution infrastructure’ for natural gas.

It seemed like a bad idea for many reasons. Afghans couldn’t even afford the conversion necessary to make their cars able to run on compressed natural gas, the Times reports.

All of this waste is being revealed at a time when the Pentagon is about to receive an extra $25 billion in funding for the year. Lawmakers worry that the Defense Dept. has grown so big so fast, that it is impossible to perform a complete audit to certify its finances.

Senator Chuck Grassley, said the Pentagon’s attempt to “stymie the investigation” and not produce the invoices and payment vouchers made matters even worse.“If those documents don’t exist, that’s a huge problem….the lack of accountability and transparency is disgraceful,” he said.

The principal deputy undersecretary, said he offered to try to “dig up some records” and make them available, but that Sopko never accepted the offer.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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