Of all the Pentagon’s infamous boondoggles, this one ranks up there with the $37 screws, $7,622 coffee maker and $640 toilet seat.
The Defense Department spent $43 million to build a gas station in Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Granted, it wasn’t just any gas station but a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station in the city of Sheberghan, near Afghanistan’s natural gas fields. Still, a comparable CNG station in Pakistan usually costs much less – about $500,000 to build.
Even more disturbing to the inspector general, John Sopko, was the fact that the Pentagon couldn’t explain the high cost of the project. In his letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Sopko said he found it “both shocking and incredible” that the Defense Department said it no longer has any knowledge of the $800 million program that funded the gas station – the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations – which was shut down a little over six months ago.
Even worse, this gas station probably should never have been built considering that most Afghanis could never afford the high cost of converting a gasoline-powered car to run on CNG (up to $800 per car in a country where the annual income is $690.)
Per the report:
“In sum, it is not clear why TFBSO believed the CNG filling station project should be undertaken. In the absence of national or even regional natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure to support a network of CNG stations, there is no incentive for motorists to convert their vehicles to CNG. In fact, an economic impact assessment performed at the request of TFBSO found that the CNG filling station project produced no discernable macroeconomic gains and a discounted net loss of $31 million.”
In its response to SIGAR, the Pentagon did not dispute any facts or findings detailed in the report.