Back in 2008, the Department of Defense spent $486 million buying 20 G.222 transport planes, intending to donate them to the Afghan Air Force. However, the planes were decommissioned in 2013 after they were determined to be fraught with performance and maintenance issues, which were further exacerbated by the fact that replacement parts were difficult to find. According to ABC News, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, an investigator charged with monitoring the government’s spending on the war effort, recently pointed out the fact that 16 of the planes had been scrapped and that the resulting raw materials had been sold by the Defense Logistics Agency to an Afghan construction company for $32,000 at a rate of six cents per pound. The planes had only been used to fly 234 flight hours between January and September of 2012.
Sopko’s report came in the form of two letters, one to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the other to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James, in which he expressed concerns that “the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.” Sopko sent the letters to kick off a probe into the decision making process that led officials to liquidate the planes at such an extreme loss.
According to Reuters, Pentagon spokesperson Major Brad Avots claimed that the planes were scrapped in an effort “to minimize impact on drawdown of US Forces in Afghanistan.” He also blamed the fog of war and said, “Working in a wartime environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes.”
Sopko has asked the Department of Defense and the Air Force what the plans are for the four remaining G.222 planes, which are currently parked at a US Air Force base in Germany. Major Avots responded to the inquiry by saying that officials are trying to determine if outside parties might be interested in buying them.
In December of 2013, Sopko, who had just begun his investigation into why the planes had been decommissioned, told NBC News, “We are just starting to gather the facts, so I cannot tell you whether it was criminal fraud or just plain mismanagement… But what I can say for sure, it is that this wastefulness is not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.”