The Pentagon doesn’t know exactly much money it spends constructing military bases in the Middle East, which puts the department in financial risk, according to a government watchdog report.
Taxpayer money may be wasted on overspending on contracts and duplicating projects because the Department of Defense doesn’t track all of its construction spending, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
GAO had trouble counting how much money, exactly, the Pentagon spends on military construction, but in Afghanistan alone, the watchdog found DOD spent at least $944 million through a questionable use of the Pentagon’s general funds. The Pentagon does not want to track its construction projects paid for with the general funds as the GAO recommends in their report. (RELATED: Pentagon Skimmed $147 BILLION Off War Readiness Fund For Basic Operations)
Pentagon uses two main sources of funding to pay for construction projects. The department tracks projects funded through the dedicated to military construction, referred to as MILCON, but it also uses the general operation and management budget, or O&M, when MILCON funding isn’t available or would take too long to approve.
“Senior DoD officials stated that they were unaware of the magnitude of their use of O&M funds for unspecified minor military construction projects … because DoD did not track the O&M-funded contingency construction projects using that authority,” the GAO report found.
O&M funds cover everything from Army payroll to buying food for commissaries, and the Pentagon has a lot of flexibility to use the money on “unspecified minor military construction” projects, or projects that cost less than $1 million.
GAO found that Pentagon ordered construction for Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan under two separate contracts to stay below the $1 million cap, as an example of the abuse of O&M funding.
Pentagon uses O&M funding for construction projects because it’s much easier to approve payments from that account than from the MILCON budget. MILCON projects sometimes wait two years for approval, and for war-zone construction, that’s a long time.
The Pentagon’s practice of building bases with general funds while waiting for MILCON approval leads to duplication, the GAO says.
For example, Pentagon built eight temporary barracks in Al Udeid, Qatar, at $650,000 each, and paid for them with general budget. In the same year, “base officials also initiated a request for $24 million in MILCON funding,” for a permanent facility, which could result in wasting the $5.2 million spent to build the temporary bases. The temporary bases are good for 25 years, if they’re managed right, the GAO notes.
The DOD does not want to track minor military construction projects as the GAO suggests, because it “is not cost effective and would not improve decision making,” the Pentagon said in its response to GAO’s report.
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