In May 2010, military commanders decided that a proposed command center in Afghanistan's Helmand province wasn't necessary. So, naturally, it is now complete and partially furnished, just in time for the U.S. withdrawal from the country. The facility will likely be torn down. It cost $34 million.
There's a sense in which this isn't that wasteful. In our rush to exit, the military will be abandoning or destroying $7 billion in equipment—in part because that's the cheaper option. In that context, $34 million is barely a drop in the bucket. It is to $7 billion what four cents is to 10 bucks—just a tiny amount.
But as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction notes in a letter outlining the waste, this almost certainly was an avoidable cost.
One senior U.S. military official told me that this facility was designed for a military division that was never deployed and, subsequently, a decision was made not to construct the facility, but inexplicably the building construction started and is now complete. Military officials explained this is an example of what is wrong with military construction in general—once a project is started, it is very difficult to stop.
The IG toured the facility, taking photos of the amenities already in place. From left to right below: never-used cubicles, a large conference table, the facility's electrical system.