Small Wars Journal

SIGAR Audit of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan

Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Audit of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations

Today, SIGAR released a full audit, conducted at the request of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley and then-Senator Kelly A. Ayotte, of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations' (TFBSO) operations in Afghanistan. TFBSO, a temporary organization created by the Department of Defense (DOD), carried out economic development projects in Afghanistan from 2010 through 2014.

Key Points:

-- Congress appropriated approximately $823 million for TFBSO operations in Afghanistan.

-- From the start, TFBSO’s goals were at odds with its capabilities, and its role within the U.S. reconstruction effort was unclear.

-- More than 50% of funds obligated for TFBSO - $359.5M of $675M - were spent on indirect and support costs, not directly on projects in Afghanistan.

-- Only $70.0 million of the $316.3 million obligated on contracts directly supporting TFBSO programs (22 percent) fully met their deliverables. The remaining $246.3 million (78 percent) either partially met or failed to meet their deliverables.

-- SIGAR found that 43 of the 89 TFBSO contracts we reviewed, worth $201 million, used limited competition and sole-source contracting, increasing the government’s risk of waste. Of these 43 contracts, 7 contracts worth $35.1 million were awarded to firms employing former TFBSO staff as senior executives.

-- DOD was unable to provide reliable data showing the extent to which TFBSO projects created jobs, facilitated foreign direct investments, increased exports, or increased Afghan government revenues.

-- TFBSO did not document organizational priorities, such as its objectives, mission, and strategy until more than 2.5 years after it began operating in Afghanistan.

-- TFBSO did not have the time, resident expertise, or outside support it needed to do everything it set out to do.

-- TFBSO often had unrealistic expectations in project execution – failing to account for realities in operating in Afghanistan including politics, culture, weather, and security- resulting in waste.

-- Because of ill-defined contract requirements, TFBSO was often unable to hold contractors accountable for poor performance, resulting in money being wasted on contracts that had no positive outcomes.

-- TFBSO obligated $51 million to facilitate the award of between 8 and 12 large-scale mining contracts. However, TFBSO officials and contractors said they overestimated the speed at which the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum could work and underestimated the resistance they would face from other ministries. As a result, after repeated delays, the Afghan government refused to sign any of these contracts because of political concerns surrounding mining contracts.

-- TFBSO’s lack of a clear mission and strategy, as well as a poor coordination, planning, contracting, and oversight led to waste and conflicts with other U.S. agencies operating in Afghanistan.

-- TFBSO submitted a transition plan to Congress estimating that all of its projects would be completed before it ended operations in Afghanistan. Because of this, TFBSO wrote that no project needed to be transferred to State or USAID. While true in some cases, in many other cases projects were left incomplete.

-- When asked why their agencies would not be continuing any TFBSO initiatives, USAID and State officials explained that they considered some ongoing TFBSO projects to be liabilities because of safety concerns, lack of sustainable design, and other problems.

-- While TFBSO’s poor record keeping was problematic in our assessing its performance, it is clear that TFBSO was unable to accomplish its overall goals.

-- The DOD Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy expressed skepticism about whether the TFBSO mission of economic development was a proper role for DOD. We share this skepticism.

Read the full report: