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article imageOp-Ed: $486 million worth of aircraft sold for scrap by Defense Dept.

By Karen Graham     Oct 12, 2014 in Politics
Close to half-a-billion dollars worth of aircraft bought with U.S. taxpayers money has been destroyed and sold for scrap at six-cents a pound, or $32,000. With a half-trillion dollar budget, the DOD considers a half-billion dollars pocket change.
It has been learned that 16 of 20 transport planes purchased by the U.S. government for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) have been destroyed by the AAF and sold for scrap. The Afghan military received $32,000 for the scraped planes, amounting to six-cents a pound. The remaining four planes are sitting intact at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
The 20 Italian-made G222 military transport planes were purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for a cool $486 million. On Dec. 10, 2013, a Washington Examiner story brought up the unused aircraft, at that time sitting on the tarmac at an airfield in Kandahar. This was five years after the refurbished transport planes had been purchased.
The DOD is saying the reason for scraping the aircraft is due mainly to performance, maintenance and spare parts costs. This, they claim has kept the aircraft grounded. Keep in mind the planes have supposedly been grounded for five years, according to the DOD. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John F. Sopko is now demanding to know what went wrong.
In January, 2013, the Inspector General for the DOD brought up the air transport program in Afghanistan, encouraging the DOD to reconsider the program before spending more money on spare parts. The IG said it was irresponsible to pay $200 million "for an aircraft that does not meet operational requirements, may be cost-prohibitive to fly, and for which several critical spare parts to sustain the G222 are unavailable."
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Brad Avots said the G222's were scraped to “minimize the impact on the draw-down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.” He also assured taxpayers that the agency is always striving to be a good steward of the taxpayer's dollars. But there were several things he didn't come forward with in trying to be transparent.
John Sopko, the Special IG had written a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Sopko said he had been reviewing the purchase of the G222s, and had become aware they had been “towed to the far side of the airport and scrapped by the Defense Logistics Agency. I was also informed that an Afghan construction company paid approximately 6 cents a pound for the scraped planes, which came to a total of $32,000," said Sopko.
In the letter to Hagel, Sopko also voiced his concern that officials involved in the scraping “may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars." Sopko’s office says the aircraft never met requirements or expectations and only flew 234 of the 4,500 flight hours required from January to September 2012. Maintenance and a lack of spare parts were common issues during that time period.
Avots reiterated the coming draw-down of forces in Afghanistan from the current level of 26,000 military personnel to 9,800 for a two year period to continue training and assisting Afghan Security Forces. This is all well and good, as far as downsizing our military presence in the region. But not even the pentagon can begin to add up all the wasted money that has gone into the corrupt nation we are assisting.
The question on some people's minds might be why no one in authority has taken the time to ever find out why the government paid $486 million for a bunch of junk aircraft. The DOD had the planes for five years in 2013. In 2012, the planes only flew 234 out of 4,500 flight hours. Are we to assume they have been sitting idle throughout the rest of this period? When is the public going to start paying attention to the wasteful way our government is operating?
We have infrastructure in this nation in need of repair and maintenance, but states and local government tell us the money is not avilable. But we can send millions to rebuild Gaza after their war with Israel, and fly bombing raids over Syria and Iraq, even though they are not really doing any good. If our country is so broke we can't afford to take care of our own problems, why are we involved in such wasteful spending?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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