The Department of Defense (DOD) refuses to detail what it did with $1.3 billion that was supposed to be used on urgent humanitarian and reconstruction projects.
A report (pdf) from Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko pointed out that $2.26 billion had been put into the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). That funding is meant to be used primarily for small projects estimated to cost less than $500,000 involving such issues as transportation, electricity and education. This year, most of the money will be used for condolence payments when civilians are killed or injured or property is damaged by U.S. forces and to increase security for communities that happen to be located near active U.S. military bases.
However, according to the SIGAR report, the Defense Department is given “broad authority to spend CERP funds notwithstanding other provisions of law. As a result, projects supported by CERP funds are not bound by procurement laws or the Federal Acquisition Regulation.”
The Army’s official guidance on CERP projects is “CERP is a quick and effective method that provides an immediate, positive impact on the local population while other larger reconstruction projects are still getting off the ground. The keys to project selection are: Execute quickly; Employ many people from the local population; Benefit the local population; Be highly visible.”
But the SIGAR report said “DOD could only provide financial information relating to the disbursement of funds for CERP projects totaling $890 million (40%) of the approximately $2.2 billion in obligated funds at that time.” The other $1.3 billion of the CERP money that has been sent to Afghanistan has been spent on projects classified as “unknown.”
What’s worse is that according to the Pentagon’s response to the report, some of the money went to war-fighting instead of helping Afghan civilians. “Although the report is technically accurate, it did not discuss the Counter Insurgency (COIN) strategies in relationship to CERP. In addition, the 20 users [sic] of CERP funds, it was also used as a tool for COIN. CERP funds were, and continue to be used to build goodwill between the people of Iraq and/or Afghanistan and the United States in an effort to gain their support in fighting the insurgency. In many cases CERP’s main effort was the COIN aspect verse the actual project being procured.”
So, from the part of that statement that makes any sense, it would appear that the money was siphoned off from approved uses and into counter insurgency, which is not among the 20 approved uses for CERP funds.
To Learn More:
Pentagon Can’t Account for $1 Billion in Afghan Reconstruction Aid (by James Rosen, McClatchy)
Department of Defense Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP): Priorities and Spending in Afghanistan for Fiscal Years 2004-2014 (Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction) (pdf)
Commander’s Emergency Response Program (Center for Army Lessons Learned)
After 6 Years, Obama’s Pentagon Suddenly Declares Details of Afghanistan War “Classified” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
U.S. Wasted $7.6 Billion to Fight Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan…Which is Now at an All-Time High (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
U.S. Wasted $34 Million Pushing Soybeans on Afghanistan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Pentagon Leads PR Campaign to Counter Critical Inspector General Reports on Afghanistan (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
Harsh Inspector General Report Says 0 of 16 Afghan Agencies can be Trusted with U.S. Aid (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)