The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is investigating why the U.S. military spent $34 million constructing a building in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, that has never been used — and may now be demolished.
SIGAR sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and two top generals this week, requesting more information about the project.
The 64,000-square foot building was commissioned by the Army in February 2010 to be the Regional Command Southwest Command and Control Facility during the surge. But, in May 2010, even before construction began, the Marine commander in the area submitted a request to US Forces Afghanistan to cancel the project.
Despite that request, the following year, in February 2011, the Air Force issued an order to British-based AMEC Earth and Environment Inc. to construct the facility and in November 2012, the U.S. government took over the facility.
In his letter, SIGAR John Sopko said the military knew the building would not be used for its original purpose well before construction began, and has asked Hagel, as well as Generals Dunford and Austin, to explain why construction ever began. He also asks them to find out whether another facility has also been built to replace this one (that was never used).
Sopko asked if turning the building over to the Afghan government is even a possibility, given that the Afghans may not have the technical capacity or money to maintain it.
"According to a senior U.S. military official, as the footprint of Camp Leatherneck decreases, the building could be outside the security perimeter, thereby making it unsafe for the U.S. military to occupy it. This leaves the military with two primary options — demolish the building or give it to the Afghan government," Sopko wrote.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said that the Pentagon is "viewing the report," and has nothing more to add to it. He was not sure when Secretary Hagel would provide a formal response.
First published July 10 2013, 12:44 PM