Foreign Policy

Pakistani Pork

Military budget bungle

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In 2004 the Pakistani government began billing the United States military for a new $30 million road. In 2006 it started charging us $15 million to build bunkers. The Department of Defense cut the checks. But according the Government Accountability Office (GAO), no American ever moseyed over to check if the roads or bunkers actually existed.

Those millions, and many more, came from the Coalition Support Fund-money intended to reimburse U.S. allies for military assistance since 9/11. So far the Pentagon has handed the Pakistani government $5.6 billion, ostensibly for costs associated with support for American military operations. What, precisely, has that money bought? No one really knows. When GAO investigators went over the paperwork to see what the Pakistani military had claimed as expenses, they found slapdash, inconsistent records that made it impossible to trace much of the cash. Three-quarters of the costs from January 2004 through June 2007 were too sketchy to "perform basic recalculations needed to verify the claims, such as quantity times price."

The paperwork contained other curiosities. With no discernible pattern, the Department of Defense would provide and deny reimbursement for similar items. Claims for bulletproof jackets were "generally disallowed" but "occasionally paid." And it's hard to know exactly how much the U.S. government paid for bulletproof jackets, phantom bunkers, or anything else for the period under review, because the Pentagon never verified the currency conversion rates used by the Pakistanis. As the Pakistani rupee fell against the dollar, the U.S. may-or may not-have gotten soaked.