Uncommanded Influence

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You know it’s not a good letter in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s inbox when the writer addresses him as “Charles.”

The latest such missive, written two days ago by John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, points out a recently-completed command post that the U.S. military knew more than three years ago was not needed:

I was told by senior U.S. military officials that the recently completed Regional Command Southwest (RC-SW) Command and Control Facility, a 64,000 square feet building and related infrastructure with a contract award value of $34 million that was meant to serve as a command headquarters in Helmand to support the surge, will not be occupied. Based on documents provided to SIGAR, it appears that military commanders in Afghanistan determined as early as May 2010 that there was no need for the facility, yet the military still moved ahead with the construction project and continued to purchase equipment and make various improvements to the building in early 2013. Based on these preliminary findings, I am deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped.

Congress created the special inspector general’s office – SIGAR, spoken almost like the thing you smoke – so Sopko, a veteran investigator appointed by President Obama, and his crew owe no allegiance to Hagel.

Their allegiance is, instead, to the taxpayers, who have invested close to $100 billion in trying to rebuild Afghanistan. The fact that SIGAR can churn out reports like this on a weekly basis is more than disconcerting; it is an outrage, both to the American people and the Afghans who could have benefited from the money being spent elsewhere, and the 2,060 U.S. troops killed trying to make that country a better place.

If you really want to feel some fiscal pain, check out these additional photographs of the unneeded facility here. You might as well see what you’ve paid for.