The Huffington Post, September 9, 2011
Cost Of Deploying One Civilian To Afghanistan: Up To 570,000 USD Per Year
SIGAR and OIG auditors found that it costs U.S. taxpayers between 0,000 and 0,000 to deploy one civilian employee to Afghanistan for one year
WASHINGTON -- U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly $2 billion since 2009 on deploying civilians to Afghanistan, according to a new report () by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
"This joint audit marks the first time any U.S. agencies have determined the costs of this important effort," said acting Special Inspector General Steven J. Trent. "The recommendations we make will help strengthen the program and better protect the investment of American taxpayers."
While the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan has drawn a significant amount of attention, since 2009, there has been another effort to "uplift" civilians into the war zone. The plan was to increase the number of U.S. civilians in Afghanistan from approximately 320 in early 2009 to 1,500 by January 2012.
President Obama has said that "a civilian surge that reinforces positive action" is a key element of his strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost the United States about $2.5 trillion, according to Catherine Lutz of Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. And the costs keep coming. Ultimately, Lutz and her team of researchers say the price tag will reach some $4 trillion.
That's about four times what President Obama has estimated. The reason why the two estimates are so different, according to Lutz, is that "he's just citing the figure for the special off-budget war appropriations for the last 10 years."
Public Radio International, Sep. 8, 2011
SIGAR and OIG auditors found that it costs U.S. taxpayers between $410,000 and $570,000 to deploy one civilian employee to Afghanistan for one year. The number of civilians sent to Afghanistan has nearly tripled since 2009, and the number of cvillian personnel there stands at 1,040 as of June.
Seventy-four percent of the civilian personnel have come from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The cost of deploying a civilian to Afghanistan is significantly lower than sending a soldier, which costs taxpayers approximately $1 million per a year.
As military personnel draw down in Afghanistan, the burden on civilian personnel will increase. U.S. forces have been scheduled to begin withdrawing this summer and complete the drawdown by 2014.
Despite the high costs, the report concluded that "the State Department has not taken sufficient steps to ensure that funds transferred to other agencies for civilian uplift are used for their intended purposes." The report referred to the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq for some perspective on potential costs in Afghanistan.
"The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq suggests that this process will present significant challenges for State, including increased costs associated with assuming some of [the Defense Department's] previous security responsibilities," concludes the audit. "A 2009 State OIG report indicated that the U.S. military's withdrawal from Iraq could result in additional costs for State, such as providing convoy security for fuel, food, and other supplies."
The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
The report concluded that the State Department should implement "formal agreements ... with all agencies that receive State transfers to fund their uplift personnel to ensure funds are used for their intended purposes." It also said the Department of Transportation should return $3.5 million in unused funds to the State Department or the Treasury. The Department of Transportation was one of the agencies that received uplift funds but didn't use the money because it wasn't sure whether it was authorized for training or other purposes.
The audit is the first conducted under Trent, who took over as acting director when Herb Richardson stepped down in September. The White House has had trouble filling the position with a permanent head.
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