The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has opened a criminal investigation into the wasteful Afghan army uniform procurement that attracted ire from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
In a hearing before GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services, SIGAR head John Sopko said that his office was opening a criminal investigation into the issue of $28 million wasted dollars since 2008 on proprietary camouflage for Afghan army troops.
A SIGAR report found that the camouflage is not only incredibly expensive, but is also essentially useless in 97 percent of Afghanistan territory.
“These problems are serious,” Sopko said. “They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the ANA uniforms.”
What the investigation has turned up so far is that the expensive, proprietary camouflage was chosen because it was the only pattern that former Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak even saw in the first place.
“It’s pretty clear from our discussion with the CSTC-A officials and reviewing the files, the reason it happened because the minister of defense, Minister Wardak, never saw the DOD-owned patterns down below,” Sopko said. “He was basically shown only patterns owned by one company, the Canadian company [HyperStealth] that I mentioned previously.”
Sopko also noted during the hearing that no one bothered to conduct an assessment to figure out what camouflage works best in Afghanistan. Sopko recommended a review into all clothing and individual equipment contracts.
Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, ranking member of the subcommittee, said there was a real possibility that some amount of fraud was at play in the uniform procurement debacle.
“It certainly seems to me that we might just not find a mistake, but fraud and other improprieties,” Moulton said.
“We can’t count how many Afghan soldiers’ lives may have already been lost due to inappropriate camouflage, but we can account for how many American taxpayer dollars have been wasted,” Moulton noted in his opening remarks.
In a memo obtained by USA Today, Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently slammed the Pentagon for “cavalier” spending on proprietary camouflage in Afghanistan, and added that such reckless decisions on wastefully spending tax dollars “are not to recur.”