WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scolded top defense officials for a “complacent” mode of thinking that allowed $28 million to be wasted on Afghan army uniforms that were inappropriate for fighting in Afghanistan.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction exposed the waste in June when it found that the Pentagon’s decision to procure a dark forest-patterned uniform for the Afghan army was incongruous with the country’s largely desert environment. The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan selected the dark uniform in 2008, SIGAR found, without determining whether it was right for Afghanistan. DoD had purchased more than 1.3 million of these uniforms as of June, SIGAR reported.
Moreso, the SIGAR found, DoD bypassed its own digital patterns it owned and contracted a firm whose proprietary rights over the forest pattern significantly increased the cost of the shirt and pants purchases.
Mattis used SIGAR’s findings to highlight what he said he saw as wasteful complacency.
“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential,” Mattis said in his memo, addressed to the under secretaries for acquisition, policy and finance. Those departments head the Afghanistan Resource Oversight Council, a group responsible for decisions on procurement to support the Afghan National Security Forces.
“I highlight this report because it reveals two truths about our line of work. [First] our every action contributes to our larger mission,” Mattis said. Second, “our procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget.”
“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis said.
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.