According to a US congressional watchdog, the Pentagon’s multi-project initiative to train and equip local soldiers “to combat terrorism” around the world is failing. The programme was first authorised as part of the 2006 defense bill.
The Inspector General report found the Pentagon had neither a strategy with clear objectives nor an overarching plan for execution.
According to the report released on Wednesday from the government accountability office, the Global Train and Equip program has not been successful in enhancing the capabilities of individual forces in at least 13 of 21 projects undertaken.
While the assessment does describe some positive outcomes, the military essentially spent some $2 billion on the program in 2016 and 2017 with little to show for it.
Misuse of equipment, manpower shortages, and flawed project proposal designs all contributed to the low success rate of operations.
Billions of US taxpayer dollars continue to flow into such projects earmarked for “counter-terrorism capabilities” in countries like Jordan, the Philippines and Romania.
But the new government watchdog report raises questions about Pentagon and State Department oversight.
Not only has the Pentagon’s track record been minimal, but of the 262 projects undertaken from 2006 to 2015, only a third of the initiatives were assessed for efficacy, according to the watchdog.
Between 2016 and 2017 most funding – about $865 million – were spent on gear and training efforts in Jordan and Lebanon, according to the report.
Kenya received $132 million for helicopter and artillery needs in Kenya and $83 million was spent on Tunisian intelligence, border training and helicopter projects. Some $83 million in force structure and counter-terrorism training went to Niger, where four US soldiers were killed in 2017 by jihadists.
The train and equip missions seem to have been an open money spout, since project proposal guidance “was not sufficiently instructive or enforced,” project proposals contained insufficient information regarding costs, risks and benefits, and updates provided to Pentagon and State Department leaders, as well as to Congress, had not been “sufficiently informative in explaining the collective impact” of the missions.
Pentagon officials often also failed to consider the ability of a partner nation to absorb new capacity, the report noted. In less than 75 percent of the proposals, did they consider future sustainment of the project in the partner nation.
These missions were put together in haste many times. “One senior official also noted that pressing national security goals, such as quickly developing the capabilities of strategic partners for ongoing operations, required the US government to assume some risk by supporting a project without fully assessing or documenting a partner nation’s absorptive capacity,” the report states.
But in many cases, Americans only discovered too late that the low education levels of the local forces hindered their ability to operate and maintain modern combat systems.
But even Americans working at the embassies of partner nations were unable to maintain consistent levels of due diligence on issues such as ensuring capacity and sustainment planning, the report stated.
“According to DOD officials, negative effects of this inconsistent due diligence included the arrival of equipment not suitable for operations and overestimation of one partner nation’s absorptive capacity, necessitating unplanned training and resulting in project delays.”
The Pentagon has not responded to the report.