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Defense Department estimates $270M to repair bases after hosting Afghan refugees

The U.S. Defense Department has released a report estimating $270 million in costs to repair facilities that hosted Afghan refugees as part of Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome. Photo courtesy of Defense Department
1 of 2 | The U.S. Defense Department has released a report estimating $270 million in costs to repair facilities that hosted Afghan refugees as part of Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome. Photo courtesy of Defense Department

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department estimates it will cost $270 million to repair facilities that hosted Afghan refugees as part of Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome.

The Defense Department estimates were published in a report from an audit team with the Office of the Inspector General.

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"DoD Components dedicated significant resources and infrastructure to support the OAW mission," Lorin Venable, the assistant inspector general for audit financial management and reporting, said in an advisory attached to the report.

"However, DoD Components encountered challenges in obtaining funds to restore damaged facilities, equipment, and resupply consumables."

The report comes after President Joe Biden in July 2021 announced Operation Allies Refuge to airlift and support the relocation of Afghan evacuees and their families who previously helped the U.S. Government as the United States prepared to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

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Operation Allies Welcome was announced by Biden in August 2021 to resettle Afghans in the United States who had worked with U.S. and coalition forces since 2001.

Both operations utilized military personnel, equipment and supplies -- as well as facilities in which more than 80,000 refugees were housed temporarily.

In March 2022, the Defense Department initially estimated that the cost to "reset facilities, equipment, and consumables to pre-OAW conditions" were $326.6 million though those figures were later reduced by May.

The auditors identified costs that were not allowable under rules for reimbursement including $25 million requested by Ramstein Air Base in Germany for damage to the airfield. However, $2.2 million was approved for equipment and consumable items for Ramstein Air Base.

"Air Force officials described tables, chairs, and cots broken by guests and tents and cots ruined by spray paint, human biological matter, and holes," the report said.

The auditors also denied millions in reimbursement to Holloman AFB because the restoration began before a restoration directive was in place.

The U.S. Army was approved for $188.9 million alone for restorations to Fort Bliss, For Lee, Fort Picket and Cam Atterbury -- as well as Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, which submitted the most reports of damage.

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The costs to repair Fort McCoy, estimated at $145.6 million, represented more than 56.1% of all restoration costs at the 11 sites that housed refugees. Fort McCoy housed 12,706 Afghan refugees, or 17.2% of the total amount of Afghan refugees housed on military bases amid the operations.

Fort McCoy reported that all of the barracks, which were built during World War II, needed repairs or replacement of walls, ceilings, floors, doors, bathrooms, plumbing, electrical systems, heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems and exterior siding.

"Due to the high costs of the Fort McCoy estimate, we have concerns over whether the reported damages to the barracks and other structures at Fort McCoy were a result of the OAW mission or were pre-existing to OAW," the report said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy sought $3.3 million to restore facilities in Spain, but the auditors approved just $810,000.

The Defense Department approved $12.7 million for the U.S. Marine Corps for restorations including roofing, heating and ventilation at Quantico in Virginia -- down from $20.3 million that was requested.

"Based on the initial estimates compared to the final estimate, DoD Components involved with OAW will need to pay $103.1 million from their own operation and maintenance or military construction appropriations to cover OAW damages," the report said.

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"The DoD should have risk assessment procedures in place to identify and plan for future temporary housing and facility usage operations, such as OAW and OAR, so installations can return to normal operations in a timelier manner."

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