Military Wastes Millions on Headquarters Never To Be Used

Josh_R

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/world...b73728-e8cd-11e2-a301-ea5a8116d211_story.html



A brand-new U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan. And nobody to use it.


By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Published: July 9 | Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 12:01 AME-mail the writer

The U.S. military has erected a 64,000-square-foot headquarters building on the dusty moonscape of southwestern Afghanistan that comes with all the tools to wage a modern war. A vast operations center with tiered seating. A briefing theater. Spacious offices. Fancy chairs. Powerful air conditioning.
Everything, that is, except troops.
The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it. Commanders in the area, who insisted three years ago that they did not need the building, now are in the process of withdrawing forces and see no reason to move into the new facility.
For many senior officers, the unused headquarters has come to symbolize the staggering cost of Pentagon mismanagement: As American troops pack up to return home, U.S.-funded contractors are placing the finishing touches on projects that are no longer required or pulling the plug after investing millions of dollars.
In Kandahar province, the U.S. military recently completed a $45 million facility to repair armored vehicles and other complex pieces of equipment. The space is now being used as a staging ground to sort through equipment that is being shipped out of the country.
In northern Afghanistan, the State Department last year abandoned plans to occupy a large building it had intended to use as a consulate. After spending more than $80 million and signing a 10-year lease, officials determined the facility was too vulnerable to attacks.
But some senior officers see the giant headquarters as the whitest elephant in a war littered with wasteful, dysfunctional and unnecessary projects funded by American taxpayers. A hulking presence at the center of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, it has become the butt of jokes among Marines stationed there and an object lesson for senior officers in Kabul and Washington.
The top Marine commander in Helmand sent a memo to the U.S. headquarters in Kabul three years ago stating that the new structure was unnecessary. But his assessment was ignored or disregarded by officers issuing contracts for construction projects, according to senior military officials familiar with the issue.
The building’s amenities also have prompted alarm among senior officers. A two-star Marine general who has toured the facility called it “better appointed than any Marine headquarters anywhere in the world.” A two-star Army general said the operations center is as large as those at the U.S. Central Command or the supreme allied headquarters in Europe.
“What the hell were they thinking?” the Army general said. “There was never any justification to build something this fancy.”
Both generals spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In a letter sent Monday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the special inspector general for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, John F. Sopko, called it “the best constructed building I have seen in my travels to Afghanistan.”
“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose,” Sopko wrote. “This is an example of what is wrong with military construction in general — once a project is started, it is very difficult to stop.”

The military, which has opened a formal investigation into the decisions that led to the contract, is considering two options for the building: demolishing it or giving it to the Afghan army. Although the handoff sounds appealing, U.S. officials doubt the Afghans will be able to sustain the structure. It has complex heating and air-conditioning systems that demand significant amounts of electricity, which, in turn, require costly fuel purchases for generators. The building is wired for 110-volt appliances, not the 220-volt equipment used by Afghans. And, the officials note, the U.S. military recently built a new headquarters building on the Afghan base that adjoins Leatherneck.
“Both alternatives for how to resolve this issue are troubling,” Sopko said.
Based on his conversations with military officials, he said one of the options now seems to be gaining traction: “The building will probably be demolished.”
 

lajikal

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New Taliban Headquarters. We are generous after all.
 

Lord Zero

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And yet we're supposed to oppose cuts to military spending.
 

KRSOne

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That's governments idea of creating jobs.
 

HandPanzer

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Why would we listen to the commanders operating there...
 

BIV

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And yet we're supposed to oppose cuts to military spending.
The spending is fine. It's what we are spending it on that is the problem. How about they let, I don't know, the military commanders decide what we need instead of the bureaucrats.

That money should be going to body armor and high tech toys for the troops.
 

Josh_R

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The spending is fine. It's what we are spending it on that is the problem. How about they let, I don't know, the military commanders decide what we need instead of the bureaucrats.

That money should be going to body armor and high tech toys for the troops.
The spending isn't fine. Even if they converted 100% of waste/fraud/abuse into gear/tech/equipment, it would still be a waste. I think it's a little crazy that we spend more than the next TEN countries COMBINED.

 

whiskeyguy

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#13
Don't worry, the government will acknowledge its mistake and spend $200 million to tear down the building and rebuild it in Syria, so it's finished around the time that "conflict" wraps up.
 

Norm Stansfield

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Mar 17, 2009
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And yet we're supposed to oppose cuts to military spending.
Yes, you are. Here's a fact about government: it is inefficient.

Cutting funding from a specific task the government is performing WILL NOT make it more efficient. It will just make it equally inefficient, but less effective. If the military budget was cut, this camp would've still been built. The only difference would be that soldiers would be less well equipped to handle the enemy. You wouldn't have made the military magically more efficient, by giving them less money.

The fact that government is inefficient is not a good argument for cutting funding to tasks that it must perform, like national defense. It's only a good argument for not requiring it to perform tasks that private individuals could perform better, like charity, economic development, job creation, health care, education, transportation, infrastructure, etc. Everything except national defense and law enforcement, which must be performed by a central government, by the inherently political nature of those tasks.

If you want to reduce the size of government, reduce the list of tasks it's supposed to do, not the funding for tasks you want it to perform.
The spending isn't fine. Even if they converted 100% of waste/fraud/abuse into gear/tech/equipment, it would still be a waste. I think it's a little crazy that we spend more than the next TEN countries COMBINED.

This propaganda again. We've had this discussion before: as a percentage of GDP, the US military spending is average among the countries of the world. The only reasons why we spend more money than other countries are
1. because we have more, and when you have more you can and should spend a portion of it to protect it. It's the intelligent and selfish thing to do.
2. because your graph isn't counting the real cost of China or Russia's military; most of it is in conscript labor, not direct monetary spending.

American military spending is currently around 4.5% of GDP, with no additional costs in labor or supplies. In contrast, many hostile countries spend more of their wealth, use conscription and have standing, trained reserves that consist of most of their population. China for instance has 600.000.000 people who are ready to serve in the military in case of war. They throw 100% of a large portion of their citizens at the task, while the US throws 4.5% of everyone's total production.

Sorry, but I'd rather pay the 4.5%, than face forced conscription or pay a little less and risk losing it all because I thought that was too much to spend on defense. It's not too much. That figure makes perfect sense, to anyone familiar with the kind of threats that are out there.
 
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Norm Stansfield

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#15
The spending is fine. It's what we are spending it on that is the problem. How about they let, I don't know, the military commanders decide what we need instead of the bureaucrats.

That money should be going to body armor and high tech toys for the troops.
Having an efficient government is an unreasonable expectation. Can't happen. No matter who's calling the shots, bureaucrats or soldiers. All you'd do by putting soldiers in charge of bureaucratic tasks is turn them into bureaucrats.

I agree that the individuals who fucked this up should be held accountable, but, beyond that, we should probably just make peace with the fact that these things will happen. There's not much we can do to prevent them. Cutting funding to the whole military is certainly not the answer.
 

Lord Zero

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The spending is fine. It's what we are spending it on that is the problem. How about they let, I don't know, the military commanders decide what we need instead of the bureaucrats.
Military commanders aren't any better. They spend large amounts of money on bullshit like bombproof toilet seats and submersible tanks that don't work (unless killing its own crew fits into one's definition of "work").
 
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Josh_R

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#18
This propaganda again. We've had this discussion before: as a percentage of GDP, the US military spending is average among the countries of the world. The only reasons why we spend more money than other countries are
1. because we have more, and when you have more you can and should spend a portion of it to protect it. It's the intelligent and selfish thing to do.
2. because your graph isn't counting the real cost of China or Russia's military; most of it is in conscript labor, not direct monetary spending.

American military spending is currently around 4.5% of GDP, with no additional costs in labor or supplies. In contrast, many hostile countries spend more of their wealth, use conscription and have standing, trained reserves that consist of most of their population. China for instance has 600.000.000 people who are ready to serve in the military in case of war. They throw 100% of a large portion of their citizens at the task, while the US throws 4.5% of everyone's total production.

Sorry, but I'd rather pay the 4.5%, than face forced conscription or pay a little less and risk losing it all because I thought that was too much to spend on defense. It's not too much. That figure makes perfect sense, to anyone familiar with the kind of threats that are out there.
 

Norm Stansfield

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#19
That's not even just spin, that's an all out lie. The US government is organized differently than those countries. The US has a federal budget, a separate social security scheme, state budgets and local budgets. The federal budget is just a tiny chunk of the total. Meanwhile, with the other countries, they are looking at most government spending.

As a percentage of total government spending, the military budget isn't 20%. It's currently a little under 10%. That's less than either South Korea or Israel (the two allies we rightfully help defend themselves - South Korea only with troops, Israel with direct aid). As for Japan, it is paying for all maintenance costs of US troops stationed on Japanese soil. Keeping American troops in Japan is cheaper than it would be to keep them on bases on US soil.

I expected better from CATO.