The U.S. spent $3 million on boats for landlocked Afghanistan


#1

Washington Post:

The U.S. spent $3 million on boats for landlocked Afghanistan

The United States spent more than $3 million on eight patrol boats for the Afghan police, according to an internal audit released Thursday. That sentence is surprising for a few reasons:

  1. Afghanistan is landlocked.
  2. Not a single boat has arrived in Afghanistan, even though the purchase was made in 2010.
  3. That works out to be more than $375,000 per boat. Similar boats in the United States are typically sold for about $50,000.

According to the report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the boats were meant to be used to patrol the Amu Darya River running between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. They were bought to move government supplies and “to deter smuggling and illegal entry into Afghanistan,” according to Gen. Harold Greene.

But nine months after the boats were purchased, U.S. and NATO forces decided that the boats wouldn’t be necessary after all. By then, though, it was too late. The U.S. government had already spent $3 million on the boats. Nearly four years later, they are still sitting in storage at a Virginia naval base.
It remains a mystery why the boats were deemed unnecessary so soon after they were bought.

:banghead:


#2

The boats look similar to Zodiacs. They are not ships and do not need a seaport. Although they can be seaworthy, they are also very suitable for river patrols since they have such a shallow draft. The reporter even mentions that the country of Uzbekistan, which is also landlocked, uses similar boats for river patrol.

The article makes a good point about the boats being bought but never deployed. The article also makes a good point about wasteful spending on other items. Perhaps the article would have been more useful if it examined those things in greater detail.


#3

Should anybody be surprised that the government wastes money?


#4

With all the money wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan, three million, as Jackie Gleason would say, is a mere bag of shells.


#5

I have a minor nitpick; Uzbekistan technically has a coast on the almost-disappeared Aral Sea.


#6

Why do we have to assume it was a waste of money. Sounds like simple contract law, to me.

The boats were thought to be needed, and contracts were made to build them.

After the contract was signed NATO (not our government) decided the policy of patrol boats in the river was not necessary.

The vendors still had to be paid for the terms of the contract.

Had the government not honored the contract, causing the vendor to lose money, then that would be something to be disappointed with the government over.


#7

Those cheapskate Americans should build them a nice lake so they can use the boats. Then they would also have more water to irrigate their poppy fields.


#8

Ummm, generally, in systems engineering, you determine your requirements (“do we need the boats as a matter of policy or not”) prior to designing the solution (“build me four boats!”). Why this may seem obvious to my cohorts, I get blank stares from a lot of government personnel when it comes to basic concepts like this. A common utterance is “Requirements? What are they?”

There is no way to defend this sort of waste, but it is hardly unique in our government. As a contractor, I see it quite often. Still makes me sad as an American to see such glib attitudes from government civilians with regards to our money.

Once the contract was signed, the vendor should have been paid. But the point is of course, it should have never been signed. Or stopped mid contract, which happens all the time. I’ve seen the government come in and tell contractors to pack up go home. No notice or warning, with years left on a “contract.”


#9

I’m all with you on the systems engineering approach of determining requirements. Unfortunately, good engineering practices get thrown the wayside when government gets involved, and its more of a policy exercise than an engineering exercise.

As an engineer, in this scenario, I would be offended by the outcome being blamed on engineers!:wink:


#10

I hear you as well. As an former electrical engineer and current SE myself, I am often frustrated how little the feds actually use our skills properly. Sure they pay us to be engineers, but you can tell that too often, the attitude is “meh, that’s fine, but I want to keep my funding levels.” If you don’t spend what you have, you always gets less next year, in the government.


closed #11

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