- Washington Guardian - Friday, March 8, 2013

Some troops serving in Afghanistan faced unnecessary increased risks to their safety because the Air Force poorly managed construction projects, an internal Defense Department investigation has found.

The Air Force Center for Engineering and Environment (AFCEE) wasted $36.9 million and put military personnel at Camps Bastion and Leatherneck at risk because they didn’t keep a close enough eye on the contractors hired to complete the tasks, the Pentagon inspector general reported.

AFCEE officials did not develop a formal process to monitor, assess, and document the quality of work performed by AECOM, TEAM, Booz Allen Hamilton and Portage personnel for four projects valued at $36.9 million,” the IG said.  “As a result, the life and safety of coalition forces who occupied the Secure RSOI and Command and Control facilities were at increased risk.”

The Air Force office hired the contractors to perform a range of projects from electrical work to construction at U.S. Camp Leatherneck and the British Camp Bastion right next door.  But investigators said officials “relied completely on the technical expertise” of the contractors to judge that the projects were finished properly.

That led not only to delays but several mistakes that put military lives at risk, investigators said.  For example, two of the buildings overseen by AFCEE lacked sprinkler systems.

“The lack of a fire sprinkler system in mission essential buildings with potentially high occupant levels, like the Secure RSOI and Command and Control facilities, significantly increases the risk to life and safety,” the report said.

And the lone exit stairs from the second floor of the Command and Control Facility ended near the exit on the first floor, concerning the inspector general that it could lead to a fatal traffic jam of people trying to flee the building during a fire.

Due to the merging of two Air Force programs, AFCEE is now known as the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.  And while the director for the Joint Programs Office of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan read the IG’s report and said improvements would be made, the inspector general noted that the Air Force office criticized never responded to the report – unusual for government agencies, as they are usually quick to respond to IG investigations.

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