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Empty HQ in Afghanistan called example of waste in U.S. military construction

Jul. 10, 2013 - 06:52PM   |  
The Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction called a 64,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Afghanistan, which cost the U.S. military $34 million to build, a 'troubling example of waste' in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The building will likely never be used and torn down.
The Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction called a 64,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Afghanistan, which cost the U.S. military $34 million to build, a 'troubling example of waste' in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The building will likely never be used and torn down. (Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanista)
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The U.S. military spent $34 million to build a 64,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Afghanistan, but officials concede they’ll probably just tear it down or turn it over to the Afghan government in what some officials call a case study of what can go wrong in military construction.

Located in the country’s Helmand province, it’s a project the Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) called a “troubling example of waste” in a letter this week to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Whether the building is turned over to Afghan officials or torn down, both outcomes raise troubling questions about why the military would push forward on the project despite early concerns that there was no need for it, according to the July 8 letter from IG John F. Sopko.

Sopko praised the building as impressive, perhaps the best built facility he’s seen in his travels around Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose,” he wrote.

He also cited unnamed military officials who cited the project as an example of the pitfalls of military construction, saying “once a project is started, it is very difficult to stop.”

SIGAR investigators said the Army sought funding for the project in February 2010, but the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FORWARD) requested the project be canceled months later.

Nonetheless, the Air Force’s 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron issued a task order to AMEC Earth and Environmental Inc. to build the facility in February 2011, and the U.S. government took control of it in November 2012, according to the letter.

Sopko said one senior military official noted that as U.S. military presence decreases at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps base in the province, the building could fall outside of the security perimeter, making it unsafe for the military to occupy.

“This leaves the military with two primary options — demolish the building or give it to the Afhan government,” Sopko told Hagel.

But the problem with turning the building over to the Afghans is that doing so would require a “major overhaul” in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Yet another problem: The building was constructed based on U.S. construction standards, not Afghan standards. As a result, the power runs at a different voltage, complicating the transfer.

“These were some of the reasons why the U.S. military officials we spoke with believe the building will probably be demolished,” Sopko wrote.

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