Watchdog: Follow the Money

Guess where $3 million worth of boats meant for Afghanistan are 'anchored'

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Watchdog,The Pentagon,Afghanistan,National Security,Kelly Cohen,Follow the Money,Navy,SIGAR

Watching money float away is something the U.S. military is familiar with — but here's a case where the money seems to be "anchored" in place, gathering dust on shore.

Eight boats worth $3 million meant for use in Afghanistan have gone nowhere: They're currently sitting in a U.S. Navy warehouse in Yorktown, Va.

The boats, rigid-hulled inflatables meant to be used by the Afghan National Police to patrol a river along the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border, were purchased in October 2010 and were slated for arrival in Kabul the following June.

However, without explanation, the order and subsequent delivery of the boats — which cost about $375,000 each — were cancelled nine months later, sending them straight to a warehouse in Yorktown, which is approximately 7,000 miles from Kabul.

A similar boat goes for about $50,000 in the states, according to the Washington Post.


Photo of one of the boats currently warehoused in Yorktown. Photo: SIGAR
In an April letter to the American commander in Afghanistan, John Sopko, the man known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, demanded more information about the patrol boats, including why the order was cancelled and what the boats' fate would be.

In a follow-up letter sent this month, Sopko expressed concern about the inability of the American military in Afghanistan to fully answer his questions, noting the agency failed to reveal the reasons and justifications for canceling the boat order.

"The list of unanswered questions is particularly troubling given the fact [...] that this program had been an important national security priority for the Afghan National Security Forces prior to its cancellation," Sopko wrote.


The interior of one of the Yorktown boats. (Photo: SIGAR)
In a separate letter this month, SIGAR wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asking what the agency plans to do with the boats, how much storing them costs and where the money to do so comes from.

The Navy has until June 27 to reply to Sopko. A Pentagon spokesman on Thursday responded to questions by directing a reporter to a statement the military had given to CBS News that addresses none of Sopko's questions to Mabus.

"It was determined that the patrol boats were no longer required," the statement reads in part, without saying why it was determined, who made the determination or why that was determined just months after the boats had been purchased. It said the boats were "currently being stored pending disposition" but offered no other details.

In February, the Navy spent $1.9 million to transport "one patrol boat and associated cargo" from San Diego to Bahrain, according to USASpending.gov.

Spending in Afghanistan has taken heat lately: A May SIGAR report revealed an $11 million Afghan prison, completely funded by U.S. tax dollars, is falling apart.

This story originally posted at 3:08 p.m. and was updated at 4:10 p.m. to add additional information and comment from the Pentagon.

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