After U.S. forces evacuated about 120,000 people in the final days of the 20-year mission in Afghanistan, U.S. military bases hosted tens of thousands of those refugees. According to a new cost assessment by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Inspector General, the U.S. bases that hosted those evacuees incurred about $259.4 million in damages to facilities and depleted consumables in the nine months between August of 2021 and May of 2022.
According to the IG report, U.S. Army bases incurred $188.9 million in costs for damage to facilities and equipment and for the use of consumables. U.S. Air Force installations incurred $57 million in costs. The U.S. Marine Corps took on $12 million in costs while the Navy took on about $810,000 in costs.
The $259.4 million in total damages was spread across 11 U.S. military installations. Evacuees were initally processed through Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Naval Station Rota in Spain and Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. Evacuees ultimately were later placed at Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), New Jersey; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Lee, Virginia; Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Virginia; and Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico.
The $259.4 million in costs consisted of $238.04 million worth of damages at facilities and $21.41 worth of equipment damaged and consumables used up.
According to the IG report, Air Force officials describes damage “such as tents and cots that were broken, stained with spray-paint, or contaminated with human biological matter” as well as “depleted medical supplies and materials, structural damage to the airfield asphalt and infrastructure, broken water systems (sinks, toilet, and floor drains), and broken or missing locks, doors, windows, and fixtures.”
Officials at JBMDL officials reported that evacuees housed on the base “had damaged facility water systems by forcing large items into pipes, causing clogs” that the base “could not repair the clogs with conventional plumbing tools.”
The $259.4 million in costs represents the amount the 11 military installations will actually be reimbursed through Overseas Humanitarian,
Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) funds. Military bases had to first issue permits to the Department of State to use their base facilities to house Afghan evacuees.
The U.S. military bases had initially tallied up damages and expenses that would have reached a combined cost of $363.6 million. DoD restoration reviewers made multiple assessments, gradually reducing those total expenses down to $270.4 million.
The DoD reviewers again revised their assessments down from $270.4 million to $259.4 million after they determined about $11 million in costs did not fit within the scope of what OHDACA would pay to repair and replenish.
The Air Force initially reported $150.1 million in total restoration costs, but DoD reviewers revised that assessment down by $93 million after determining some expenses “were not in permitted areas” and after the Air Force “began replacing damaged items before restoration directives were in place.”
“The Secretary of Defense directed DoD installations not to use [OHDACA] funds for expenses related to restoring facilities that were used for the OAW mission or for replenishing consumed DoD stock (such as mattresses) until after all DoD support to Afghans at any DoD support location was complete. Additionally, the Secretary required DoD installations to verify that such support was not already accounted for elsewhere.”
The Navy initially reported $3.33 million in total restoration costs, but the DoD only approved $810,000 in OHDACA funds on the final estimate to replace consumables because the Navy didn’t issue the required permits to the Department of State to use its facilities to host Afghan evacuees. As a result, the costs for lending out the use of their facilities in Italy and Spain was removed.
The Marine Corps initially reported $20.3 million in restoration costs but had its estimate revised down after DoD reviewers determined OHDACA funds could not go toward certain construction activities for facilities and roads that were not within scope of the DOS permit they issued.
The Army initially reported $188.9 million in total restoration costs, all of which was reimbursed.