Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, conducted his third hearing in two weeks that continues the Subcommittee's efforts to oversee billions of taxpayer dollars spent in support of military and civilian operations in Afghanistan. Today's hearing continued to focus on the interim report released last week by John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
"Given the findings in the interim report and through Mr. Sopko's testimony, we felt it necessary to seek answers from the Defense Department," said Chaffetz.
Sopko returned to testify on the interim report. He was joined by Assistant Secretary for Logistics and Material Readiness, Alan Estevez, and United States Air Force Director of Logisitcs, Joint Staff, Lt. General Brooks Bask to defend claims in the SIGAR report. They were also joined by Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator and Deputy Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID, Donald Sampler.
In his testimony to the Subcommittee, Sopko testified that "no single office within the U.S. or Afghan government has complete records on Afghan National Army (ANA) fuel purchased, ordered, delivered and consumed." There are allegations that the Defense Department may have shredded financial records for hundreds of millions of dollars in petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL).
"We simply cannot delegate the authority and oversight of billions of taxpayer dollars to the Afghan government without reliable controls in place," said Chaffetz. "If the DOD can't track and verify these expenditures, then how can we expect the Afghan government to do better?"
Despite the lack of records and justification for fuel purchases, the Department of Defense proposes to increase funding. From FY-14 to FY-18, it plans to provide $555 million dollars worth of POL per year. Instead of purchasing POL for ANA, beginning in early 2013 the Obama Administration plans to give two-thirds of that amount in cash directly to the Afghan government. In the name of capacity building, the Afghans will be allowed to purchase POL for themselves.
"This is totally unacceptable," Chaffetz added. "My hope is that through discussions like these we can come up with solutions that will prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from being wasted abroad."