WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scolded the Pentagon bureaucracy for "cavalier" use of taxpayer dollars, citing an episode of wasteful spending on private-label uniforms for the Afghan military that has caught the attention of Congress.
In a memo obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Mattis pointed to a June report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan that said the Pentagon had spent as much as $28 million more than necessary over 10 years on uniforms for Afghan soldiers with a camouflage "forest" pattern that may be inappropriate for the largely desert battlefield.
The Afghan uniform episode is to be a focus of a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. Mattis said it is emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked or minimized.
In his July 21 memo to three of the Pentagon's most senior officials overseeing resources for the war in Afghanistan, Mattis said the wasteful spending on uniforms is an example of "cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions" that undermine the mission in Afghanistan and undercut public trust.
"In my view, the key finding of the ... report is not just that it exposes waste, or that it captures how funds are diverted away from other mission priorities, but rather that it serves as an example of a complacent mode of thinking," Mattis wrote.
"I expect all (Defense Department) organizations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices -- and take aggressive steps to end waste in our department," he added.