Skip to Main Content

Tiny Bubbles: Afghan Reconstruction Oversight Shrinks


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Our Tabke Box

By the end of 2014, many U.S.-funded projects under construction in Afghanistan will be outside the U.S. government’s “oversight access bubbles,” according to a government watchdog.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), presented this alarming finding in testimony last week before the House Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

SIGAR defines oversight bubbles as areas in which the U.S. government provides “both adequate security and rapid emergency medical support to civilian employees traveling to the area.”

Sopko’s recent testimony highlights a worsening oversight gap. The U.S. government’s oversight reach in Afghanistan has decreased from 68 percent in 2009 to an estimated 21 percent by the end of 2014 (see pages 15-18 of the PDF). This will get worse as the troop drawdown continues and bases are closed. What should worry taxpayers is the fact that SIGAR’s 2014 map shows more than 70 active U.S. reconstruction projects costing over $725 million that will fall outside the oversight bubbles. This oversight gap is an open invitation for waste, fraud, and abuse

To make matters worse, SIGAR’s listed projects do not include completed projects that the Afghanistan government might not be able to sustain. U.S. overseers must keep a close eye on the billions of dollars already spent to ensure the money isn’t wasted. Despite the fact that many facilities have been turned over to the Afghan government, we are still paying operation and maintenance costs for facilities that are deteriorating.

According to SIGAR, “significant portions of Afghanistan are already inaccessible to SIGAR, other inspectors general, the Government Accountability Office, and other U.S. civilians conducting oversight, such as contracting officers.” In a letter to the Departments of Defense and State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), SIGAR wrote:

It is clear that everyone working in Afghanistan, including SIGAR, will struggle to continue providing the direct U.S. civilian oversight that is needed in Afghanistan. U.S. military officials have told us that they will provide civilian access only to areas within a one-hour round trip of an advanced medical facility. Although exceptions can be made to this general policy, we have been told that requests to visit a reconstruction site outside of these “oversight bubbles” will probably be denied. Similarly, State Department officials have warned us that their ability to reach reconstruction sites will be extremely limited due to constraints on providing emergency medical support without assistance from the Department of Defense (DOD). They have also warned us about the challenges of providing adequate protection to civilians traveling in unsecure areas.

With lots of money still on the table (as of September 30, 2013, the U.S. government has appropriated $22 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction projects, of which approximately $18 billion was obligated and $14 billion disbursed), the government has to come up with a better oversight plan.

By: Scott H. Amey, J.D.
General Counsel, POGO

scott amey Scott Amey is General Counsel for the Project On Government Oversight. Some of Scott's investigations center on contract oversight, human trafficking, the revolving door, and ethics issues.

Topics: Contract Oversight

Related Content: SIGAR, Congressional Oversight, Contractor Accountability, Inspector General Oversight, Iraq & Afghanistan Reconstruction Contracts, DOD Oversight, Wasteful Defense Spending

Authors: Scott H. Amey, J.D.

Submitted by Scott Amey at: November 20, 2013
Senator McCaskill proposed an amendment (SA 2196) to S. 1197 to prohibit the use of funds for programs and projects in Afghanistan that cannot be physically accessed by U.S government civilian personnel. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2013-11-19/pdf/CREC-2013-11-19-pt1-PgS8202.pdf#page=18
Submitted by OMG at: November 9, 2013
If Afghanistan really wanted anything to do with our form of Government, they had plenty of time to convert. They do not want us there and we should have quit pouring Billions od Dollars down a rat Hole long ago. Instead of the sequester, our Congress should brought the military home declared officially declare war upon America and then have the Military do there thing by putting Americans to work by building and repairing our antiquated infrastructure, build our needed schools and provide healthcare.

Leave A Comment

Nickname
Comment
Enter this word: Change

Related Posts

Browse POGOBlog by Topic

POGO on Facebook

Latest Podcast

Podcast; Social Media, Internet Provides Opportunities, Challenges for Lawmakers

The Congressional Management Foundation offers the Gold Mouse Awards annually to members of Congress who make the most of the opportunity the digital world offers them. POGO spoke with members of Rep. Mike Honda's communications team about their award.