© Getty Images
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ripped Pentagon officials for “cavalier” spending after a recent report revealed that the Defense Department spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that don’t match up with the country’s terrain.
In a July 21 memo released to reporters Monday, Mattis addresses a June Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. The document found that DoD began buying the forest-patterned uniforms in 2007 after a former Afghan defense minister saw them online and favored them.
The uniforms were purchased without testing, to be used in a country that’s just 2 percent woodland.
“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,” Mattis wrote in the memo, addressed to the under secretaries for policy, comptroller and acquisition, technology and logistics.
“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis continues.
Mattis said a key finding of the SIGAR report was that the Pentagon personnel can reach a “complacent mode of thinking” if not careful.
“The report is an indication of a frame of mind – an attitude that can affect any of us at the Pentagon or across the Department of Defense – showing how those of us entrusted with supporting and equipping troops on the battlefield, if we let down our guard, can lose focus on ensuring their safety and lethality against the enemy,” he writes.
The SIGAR report also drew lawmakers’ attention.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to the Pentagon last week, demanding answers from DoD by August.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), meanwhile, called the findings “embarrassing and an affront to U.S. taxpayers.”
A House Armed Services panel will address the report Tuesday during a hearing with Inspector General John Sopko.
Mattis concludes that the report should be used as a motivator to prevent future wasteful spending.
“Rather than minimize this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all DoD organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and to take aggressive steps to end waste in our Department," Mattis writes.