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 December 3, 2015 - 11:17 AM EST
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Pentagon task force under fire for spending $150M on luxury villas, security


A Defense Department task force in Afghanistan is under fire for allegedly spending some $150 million on luxury accommodations and private security for its employees.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is being asked to explain the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations' decision to spend about 20 percent of its budget on private housing and security guards, including villas with upgraded furniture, western-style hotel accommodations and three-star dining choices.

John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, asked Carter if the task force prepared a cost-benefit analysis before using private accommodations, if there was a specific mandate allowing staff to reside in private residences and who selected the villas.

If TFBSO employees had instead lived at DOD facilities in Afghanistan, where housing, security, and food service are routinely provided at little or no extra charge to DOD organizations, it appears the taxpayers would have saved tens of millions of dollars, Sopko said in a letter to Carter.

Sopko questioned the assertion from former TFBSO Director Paul A. Brinkley that the goal of living off base was to show private companies that they could set up operations in Afghanistan themselves without needing military support.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said the notion that living off base was better for the locals was U.S. Grade A baloney.

The concerns raised in SIGAR's letter don't inspire confidence that the task force took care with spending, he said. For example, the assertion that task force employees had to have outside housing and security to set an example for private companies sounds like U.S. Grade A baloney. I look forward to learning more about how the task force operated and what, if any, results it achieved in exchange for spending $800 million.

The questions from Sopko come just days after he lambasted the Defense Department for spending nearly $43 million to build a single natural gas filling station in Afghanistan when a similar one in Pakistan cost $500,000.

Source: United Press International (December 3, 2015 - 11:17 AM EST)

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