For decades, Afghanistan has been a hub of illegal drug activity. As the war on terrorism rages on, the “war on drugs” continues as well. In an effort to better combat Afghanistan’s drug issue, the DEA purchased an ATR 42-500 aircraft that was modified to better monitor drug-related activities. The original cost of the project was $22 million, but it’s since cost a total of $86 million. The worst part? The plane has yet to fly one mission despite the huge cost, and is still “resting on jacks” within a hangar.
How did the cost get so out of control? For a start, $8.5 million went to parts and $2 million towards a hangar. There were also millions in unapproved expenses related to the project, creating even further embarrassment for those involved. The Justice Department’s Inspector General wrote in the report, “Our findings raise serious questions as to whether the DEA was able to meet the operational needs for which its presence was requested in Afghanistan.” In response, the DEA stated it “ . . . can and should provide better oversight of its operational funding."
The DEA’s drug program in Afghanistan is already over, so the millions spent on this project is now essentially a worthless cost. There is intention to still use the plane in areas like Central and South America. However, the bottom line is that an incredible amount of money was spent on an operation that never showed any return on investment. It’s also damning to see so much money spent on expenses that never had approval. Hopefully, with some extra vigilance and a lesson learned, such waste can be prevented in the future.