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April 6 2016

Government Definition of Stewardship: Paying $2 Mil More than Market Value for a Plane that Never Leaves the Ground

Patrice J. Lee

Only the federal government would buy a plane for $2 million more than it’s worth and then spend ten times the value of that plane on renovations and suspicious expenses. But here's the kicker: the plane never got off the ground.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Department of Defense (DOD) bring us today’s waste of taxpayer money. The agencies teamed up to fight illegal drugs in Afghanistan, but so far have mostly delivered exponential cost overruns, questionable spending, and ineptitude.

A government watchdog report finds that the DEA spent $8.6 million to purchase a plane valued at $6 million from the DOD to support its anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan. DOD promised to loan the plane with surveillance equipment and other capabilities DEA desired to conduct their operations in what is known as the Global Discovery program. So far, DOD has spent $67.9 million in funds to renovate the plane and build an unused hanger for it in Kabul. DOD also kicked over $29 million to DEA for their counter-narcotics aviation operations and for the Global Discovery program.

In total, both agencies have spent $86 million and seven years later the airplane is inoperative – sitting idly on jacks. The plane has never flown to Afghanistan, but continues to rack up bills on our taxpayer dime. And, it likely never will be used because the DEA ended aviation operations in Afghanistan last year.

The report also cited more than $2 million spent on such items as training people who never went to Afghanistan and on personnel trips that were unrelated to the actual project. The project missed every delivery deadline and at some point officials contemplated scrapping the project, but they never did.

The answer these agencies give for this taxpayer waste is mind-boggling but predictable:

The DEA said in a statement it "can and should provide better oversight of its operational funding." The agency said an internal review had begun. A DEA spokesman declined to answer further questions.

U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Valerie Henderson, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told Reuters the department eliminated funding for the aircraft from its current budget but was overseeing final upgrades to the plane that are required to be complete in June.

The DEA plans to use the aircraft in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, according to an unnamed DEA official cited in the audit.

As the Washington Post reports, the finger-pointing has just begun:

Federal Insider asked DEA to comment, the response was short boilerplate: “Reviews by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) are necessary and important, and DEA welcomes recommendations that make us better.  DEA agrees that it can and should provide better oversight of its operational funding.  We are reviewing policies and procedures to ensure the limited resources allocated to DEA are utilized in the most responsible and effective way possible.”

In a more detailed response to the inspector general’s office, DEA pointed its finger at DOD, which supported the program with $29 million.

DEA said it “had previous positive experiences utilizing DoD contractors for modifying DEA aircraft.” The “significant difference” this time was previously “DEA utilized its own funding, and therefore, had the latitude to be more involved in the modification process. Based upon that previous experience, DEA had no indication that the Global Discovery modification would encounter the significant delays and problems that ultimately occurred.”

Federal bureaucrats exhibit a breathless disregard for the resources they supposedly are stewarding. The IG report pointed out that the DEA did not fully comply with acquisition regulations and ignored less costly alternatives. In short, the bill keeps adding up but the DEA doesn’t care, after all, it's other people's money.

Perhaps they see budgets and bills are just numbers on a page. Everyday Americans are not nearly as fortunate. We watch our bank accounts carefully, because we don’t have an unlimited funnel of cash coming from someone else’s wallet.

 

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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