Connecting state and local government leaders

Here’s What Local Governments Could Have Done With the $43 Million Spent on That Afghan Gas Station

Anna Lurye /


Connecting state and local government leaders

U.S. officials have been dealing with a case of extreme sticker shock in recent days over reports that the Department of Defense spent $43 million on a problematic gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost $500,000. Nobody quite knows where the other $42.5 million went.  

“There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “But of all the examples of wasteful projects in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon began prior to our wartime contracting reforms, this genuinely shocked me. It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000 percent more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational.”

It’s not uncommon for local governments to be irked by such stories, since spending that may seem trivial to one layer of government, in this case the Department of Defense, could be spent on so many important funding priorities domestically.

Here’s what the $43 million spent on that gas station in Afghanistan could have been used on in different parts of the nation ...

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana: Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 2016 budget proposal includes $43 million to fully fund the firefighters pension system, according to The Lens.

FULTON COUNTY, Georgia: In the Peach State’s most populous county, which includes Atlanta, a recent Accenture report recommends that the county government spend $43 million over the next three years on IT upgrades, everything from email systems to wireless networks, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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The New York Public Library in Manhattan (Photo by Marcio Jose Bastos Silva /

NEW YORK CITY, New York: In the most recent budget, $43 million in additional funding was given to New York City’s public libraries, which will help expand library hours, hire additional staff, purchase new printed and digital materials and help improve after-school and literacy programs, according to DNAInfo New York.

UPLAND, California: The city’s 2015-16 budget, adopted this summer, came in at $43 million. The budget included a cut to animal shelter operations, which will help fund four new police officers, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: Two rural electric co-ops were recently awarded a combined $43 million in federal loans for infrastructure improvements, including smart grid development, according to The Associated Press.

TWINSBURG, Ohio: The board of education in this city near Cleveland oversees a budget of $43 million and a school population of 4,200 students, according to the Twinsburg Bulletin.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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