Following recent reports that the Department of Defense wasted up to $28 million on uniforms for the Afghan army that don’t even suit the country’s geographical requirements, Defense Secretary James Mattis slammed Pentagon officials for their carelessness and “cavalier” spending.
In a memo released to reporters on Monday, Mattis expressed concerns regarding a June report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The report determined that the department of Defense bought the camouflage uniforms back in 2007, after the then Afghan defense minister saw them on the Internet and apparently liked them.
The uniforms were allegedly bought without any testing or research, to be used in Afghanistan by Afghan military forces. The forest patterned uniforms were recently found to be useless in the largely mountainous terrain of the country, since they are best suited for woodlands – which only account for about 2 percent of the entire landscape.
“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a 10-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department’s responsibilities and budget,” Mattis wrote in the memo. He addressed the memo to undersecretaries for comptroller and acquisition, policy, and technology and logistics.
“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” he continued.
According to Mattis, a significant finding of the SIGAR report claimed that Pentagon personnel are at high risk of a “complacent mode of thinking” if not cautious.
“The report is an indication of a frame of mind — an attitude that can affect any of us at the Pentagon or across the Department of Defense — showing how those of us entrusted with supporting and equipping troops on the battlefield, if we let down our guard, can lose focus on ensuring their safety and lethality against the enemy,” he wrote.
The report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an office created by the Congress to provide an independent and objective oversight of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, also caught several lawmakers’ attention.
Last week, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (Mo.) sent a letter to the Pentagon, looking for answers regarding the findings of the report, by August.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) also called the findings “embarrassing and an affront to U.S. taxpayers.”
In a hearing with Inspector General John Sopko on Tuesday, the House Armed Services panel will address concerns regarding the report.
Mattis further said that the findings of the reports should be used as motivation to prevent careless spending in the future.
“Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all DoD organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices — and to take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department,” he wrote.