Taxpayer Money Flying Away As DOD Sells $500 Million Planes for Almost Nothing

Michi Iljazi

October 23, 2014

The Department of Defense has long been seen as one of the primary areas where reform is needed when it comes to how taxpayer money is spent. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has highlighted not only the wasteful spending practices that exist in the Pentagon, but there is also the fact that transparency and accountability at the agency is lacking and has been for quite some time. Unfortunately, another example of waste and mismanagement has been uncovered showing once again that taxpayers aren’t being best served by DOD.

Andrea Shalal of Reuters reported in early October on a fleet of planes for Afghanistan, which came courtesy of American taxpayers, is being sold for scrap:

A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it decided to destroy 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afghan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.

John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany.

In a stunning example of the worst kind of taxpayer waste, the Pentagon is essentially procuring aircrafts that they won’t be using and then after spending the money to acquire the fleet, turns around and sells the nearly half-billion worth of planes for pennies on the dollar. John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was not expecting to find this mess and was actually looking to inspect the planes, rather than question why they were destroyed.

Mr. Sopko sent a letter to the U.S. Air Force that was released earlier this month, and in it he detailed his findings and pressed for answers:

To assist our inquiry, please provide the following information:

  • All documentation, to include electronic communications, related to the decision-making process that led to the approval for scrapping the sixteen G222s.
  • Explain whether alternatives to scrapping the planes were considered and, if alternatives were considered, why they were not pursued, such as flying the planes out of Afghanistan to the United States, Europe or other country for sale?
  • Provide all contractual documentation related to the scrapping of the aircraft and identify any costs to the government related to scrapping the planes.
  • Provide all information concerning surveys or assessments conducted to determine the value of the planes before the sixteen planes were scrapped. Were any or all the aircraft airworthy?
  • Identify and explain any actions taken to pursue administrative remedies against the aircraft manufacturer or maintenance contractor and whether warranty claims were pursued. What efforts were made to return the aircraft to the manufacturer or to obtain a refund?
  • Identify the end use of the scrap metal sold to the Afghan company. Were any of the aircraft parts not scrapped (i.e. engines, tires, brass components)? If so, identify those parts and their disposition.
  • What plans does DOD have for the disposition of the four remaining planes located in Germany?

Katherine McIntire Peters with Defense One laid out additional concerns coming from SIGAR and others:

What’s more, Sopko wants to know the end use of the scrap metal sold to an Afghan company and the ultimate fate of parts that weren’t scrapped, such as engines and brass components. In a country where such materials often end up as components in weapons used against U.S. troops, the answers could prove deeply troubling to U.S. and Afghan officials.

This is the kind of thing that should enrage American taxpayers, especially when there are members of Congress like retiring House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon warning of “horrific” defense cuts that will happen because of sequestration (the automatic cuts Congress and the President agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011).

It was not long ago that Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said that sequestration might have to be stopped because of new potential threats facing the United States and the world. TPA has a tip for Reps. McKeon and Thornberry: stop this kind of waste uncovered by SIGAR and you’ll have an extra $500 million to allocate for the Pentagon’s budget without having to fear-monger Americans about spending cuts.

Our nation’s security is paramount, and especially in the world we live in today with so much advancement in technology and so much integration globally. However, there is no way the country can be secure when the agencies and officials charged with the job are wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. This is another example of why the Pentagon should be audited so that taxpayers can be certain the money going to protect and defend all Americans is going where it ought to go.

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