Back in 2014, a "lessons learned" memo from a government watchdog emerged over hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by the US Air Force on a fleet of faulty Italian-made military planes that ended up getting scrapped. Now, more than six years later, that same watchdog says no one has ever been held accountable for the debacle, which cost the Pentagon nearly $550 million. NBC News has the report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which details how the Pentagon lost $549 million after scooping up 20 G222 cargo planes in 2008 from Alenia North America. The transport aircraft, which the US donated to Afghanistan, were soon found to be plagued with problems, including maintenance issues and delays in obtaining spare parts, with complaints from Afghan pilots on their safety and the "near fatal" mishaps that took place, per the report. The planes ended up as scrap metal, which brought in a paltry $40,000 or so.
SIGAR's main beef now is the lack of accountability, including that of Alenia and a now-retired Air Force officer who was a major player in acquiring the planes. That officer "had a clear conflict of interest because he was significantly involved with the G222 program while on active duty, then retired and became the primary contact for Alenia on the same program," the report notes. The probe also found there'd been multiple warnings from within the Air Force about Alenia, and that US contractors hadn't checked before the buy on how accessible spare parts were or if the planes were able to fly in Afghanistan's often-harsh environment. Although the DOJ agreed in 2016 to review the cases, it concluded last May it would be too hard to go after the officer—"such convictions were 'unheard of,'" SIGAR says it was told—and Alenia, as the US had accepted the eyebrow-raising aircraft. The DOD says it has since put in place better oversight measures regarding weapons contracts. (Read more Pentagon stories.)