WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary James Mattis blasted the Pentagon in a memo this week after a recent report said U.S. military officials spent $93 million over ten years on camouflage uniforms for Afghan troops that failed to properly disguise them.
“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis wrote in the memo, obtained by USA Today and addressed to the under secretaries for acquisition, policy, and comptroller.
The camouflage bought for Afghan troops is a dark-green forest pattern, when only two percent of Afghanistan is forest, according to a report by Pentagon watchdog Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
The Pentagon has bought these uniforms since 2007 without testing their effectiveness. The report also showed that special tailoring of the uniforms cost more money, as did using a licensed camouflage pattern when free versions could have been used, potentially adding as much as $28 million to the price tag.
The report said that going forward, the Pentagon can save as much as $71 million over the next ten years by switching to a new camouflage pattern.
The Pentagon has been under pressure to find savings and end waste, particularly since 2011, when Congress passed a bill mandating automatic cuts of $500 billion over ten years if the Pentagon was not able to lower its budget by itself.
Since then, training of troops and maintenance of equipment have taken the heaviest hits.
“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department’s responsibilities and budget,” he said.
“Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all [Department of Defense] organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department,” he said.
“I’m counting on all hands to take effective action,” he said.