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The Pentagon spent $43 million to build a gas station that no one is using

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.

How to waste $15 million

The Pentagon spent almost $15 million to build a warehouse at an airfield in war-torn Kandahar – after lengthy construction delays – that has never been used or occupied, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. That price was $12 million more than the original estimate and the job was completed even after the Pentagon knew that it was no longer needed due to a policy change regarding American facilities in Afghanistan.

The five-year saga is almost a textbook example of how to rip off the government on a major contract in a distant country notorious for its corruption. On September 25, 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $13.5 million fixed-price contract to a Turkish construction company partnership, YDA AFCON, to build the complex including four shipping and receiving warehouses, an administration building and some support facilities.

The facility, the completion of which was described as critical for the mission of the Pentagon’s logistics arm, was to be completed within 300 days. Yet more than two and half years later, most of the electric and plumbing work was still incomplete and the contract was terminated.

The completion of the outstanding tasks was then awarded to Arkel International LLC, an American company, for $844,526. Again, the job was subject to multiple delays. When it finally opened, it no longer served any need and was turned over to the Afghan government, which has yet to use it or occupy it.