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Policy: National Security

$500m worth of U.S. military transport planes sit unused in Afghanistan; investigation launched

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Watchdog,Michal Conger,Afghanistan,National Security,Inspectors General,Defense Spending,Waste and Fraud,SIGAR

Nearly $500 million and five years after the Department of Defense purchased 20 refurbished transport aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, the planes sit idle in Kandahar.

Now the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction wants to know what went wrong.

The Pentagon ended the program to support the Italian-made G222 planes after it became clear they were being poorly managed, underused and racking up extra costs in spare parts.

The DOD inspector general encouraged officials to reconsider the program in January 2013 before spending another $200 million on spare parts "for an aircraft that does not meet operational requirements, may be cost-prohibitive to fly, and for which several critical spare parts to sustain the G222 are unavailable." The $200 million was be on top of another $486 million the Pentagon was already obligated for, the IG said.

The G222s, which are built to take off and land on short runways, were originally intended to be used through March 2022 at a total cost of $830 million, plus the additional $200 million for spare parts, according to the DOD IG.

SIGAR based its decision to investigate on DOD's January report of problems with the G222s.

As of January 2013, DOD and international officials in charge of the program lacked a long-term plan for the plane that included costs, and hadn't considered the availability of critical spare parts, several of which turned out to be unavailable.

Between January and September 2012, the Afghan Air Force had only flown 234 of 4,500 required hours.

"Congress remains interested in why DOD purchased aircraft that apparently could not be sustained and what will happen to the G222s currently sitting unused at the Kabul International Airport and in Ramstein Air Force Base Germany," Special Inspector General John F. Sopko wrote in a letter released Tuesday.

By March 2013, DOD decided to stop using the G222s altogether and use a different type of plane.

SIGAR will investigate the decision to use G222s for the Afghan Air Force; determine the total amount spent on the G222s, including disposal; review future plans for the aircraft, disposal or otherwise; and look at processes and controls put in place to prevent similar problems in the future.

Alenia North America, which got the contract for the G222s for the Afghan Air Force, has received almost $300 million in DOD contracts since 2008, according to USASpending.gov. It is now part of the Italian firm Alenia Aermacchi.

The majority of the $300 million came from the initial contract for the 20 refurbished aircraft. The company has also performed pilot training and aircraft maintenance.

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