WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley is pressing the Defense Department to clarify and respond to potentially misleading statements about the true cost of a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan. In a four-page-plus letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Grassley outlined questionable statements by a top defense official, who asserted that the gas station cost $5.1 million rather than $43 million, and the authenticity of new information on the cost that needs clarification.
Various Defense Department-approved analyses have shown the best possible estimate for the gas station cost is $43 million and suggested that no documentation exists that will support an exact cost, including the much lower cost of $5.1 million cited by Acting Under Secretary Brian McKeon during testimony before a Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee. Analysis was provided by Vestige Consulting, Williams Adley and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
“The assessments by the Vestige CEO and the DSCA Comptroller square with what the Williams Adley firm discovered, and what I know about the department’s shoddy bookkeeping practices,” Grassley wrote. “For these reasons, the real cost of the CNG filling station will remain elusive -- unless Secretary McKeon is able to produce a complete set of documents that support his $5.1 million cost estimate.”
Grassley asked a series of questions seeking clarification on why the Defense Department pushed the lower cost estimate without documentation to back up the claim.
“If Secretary McKeon still stands behind his $5.1 million figure, I ask him to provide a complete set of underlying records to back it up,” Grassley wrote. “I also ask that these be verified as accurate and complete by a certified public accountant.”
The compressed natural gas station was among several projects overseen by the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, after documenting numerous instances of excessive spending by the now-defunct task force and a shoddy record of projects, is now conducting two formal audits of the task force at Grassley’s request.
Grassley’s letter is available here.