The Sky’s the Limit…for Debt

DEA Plane for Counter-Drug Missions in Afghanistan Years, Millions of Dollars Over Budget…and Inoperable

Shown here is the ATR 42-500 aircraft. (OIG)

Presidential candidates on the campaign trail have focused recently on the “opioid epidemic” that has developed in America despite the long, expensive “war on drugs” the Federal Government has waged since the 1980s. As so many government Agencies seem to do, the DEA makes life most difficult for the poor and vulnerable, while sheltering its own employees and their friends (if you believe the Oscar-winning movie Traffic).

But counter-drug missions we fund in other countries at least would appear to create more Federal Government jobs.

An “advanced” Drug Enforcement Agency aircraft (pictured above) is $64,000,000 and 4 years over budget. Fox News reported the Agency’s own Inspector General’s conclusions pertaining to the plane the DEA purchased for $8,600,000 in 2009 “to support anti-drug efforts in the Afghanistan war zone, where opium poppy cultivation has long been rampant.”

The plane is up on bricks in a Delaware warehouse, however, and does not appear cleared for takeoff any time soon.

$5,000,000 was spent by the Agency on spare engines for the plane, and an additional $3,500,000 on additional parts.

The IG report (the DEA’s publicly-released audit of its own failed project) notes “DEA’s Aviation Division lacked adequate policies and procedures for receiving, reviewing and paying contractors with no requirement that any documentation be approved before personnel were paid.

Every scheduled “delivery date” for the plane’s progress has been missed.

Additionally, the plane’s progress included $2,500,000 in “improper expenditures by DEA employess. Per the Fox News report of the IG audit, this figure included: “costs associated with aircrafts and personnel who were entirely unrelated to the agency’s Afghanistan operations. That included $8,122 in unallowable travel related to missions in Haiti, the Bahamas, Peru and Florida.

The plane’s new scheduled completion date is June 2016. Because the U.S. pulled out of the Afghan war zone over a year ago, “the DEA intends to fly the plane in the Caribbean, Central America and South America [instead].”

Presumably these areas have similar poppy operations that are of similar concern to the Afghan drug trade, at least in terms of Federal budget priorities.

The Federal Debt exceeds $19,000,000,000,000.

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