By Lily Dane
In 2008, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) spent nearly $8.6 million on an ATR 42-500 aircraft (ATR 500) to support its counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense (DOD) agreed to modify the plane with surveillance equipment and other capabilities.
Eight years later, the only thing that has gone up is the cost of the plane.
The plane was supposed to be ready for use in 2012, but the project has been plagued by missteps along the way, according to a harsh new report from the Office of the Inspector General.
The report was the result of an audit which was initiated by a whistleblower allegation:
In a July 2014 letter to the Inspector General, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel conveyed allegations that it received from an anonymous source regarding the misuse of government funds by the DEA. Specifically, the whistleblower complaint alleged that the DEA misused DOD funds that were intended to support the DEA’s counternarcotics aviation operations in Afghanistan by misdirecting, diverting, and spending the money for purposes unrelated to the DEA’s Afghanistan aviation operations.
As with most things involving government, the price of the project ended up being far higher than planned – it has cost the agencies $86 million – four times the initial estimated cost.
Right now, that $86 million aircraft remains inoperable and is sitting on jacks in Delaware.
The inspectors described the program as an “ineffective and wasteful use of government resources.”
They should add, “And a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.”
It will likely never been flown in Afghanistan because the DEA has since ceased aviation operations there. The investigation also found that, as of March 2016, the DOD continued to spend appropriated funds on the plane to try to make it operational.
Informing Congress at a hearing on March 16 of the fact that 2014 was the most profitable year for the Afghan drug trade, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, asked, “If this is winning [the drug war], what is losing?”
Since US-led forces occupied Afghanistan in 2001, Washington has spent approximately $8 billion on trying to suppress the production of heroin from the country’s poppy crops. Yet in recent years, heroin production has reached record highs.
The plane, which has missed every scheduled delivery date, is now estimated to be completed in June – nearly one year after the DEA pulled out of Afghanistan. The report said the DEA intends to fly the plane in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Want to bet that North America is on that list too?
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”