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    ATR 42-500 plane

    Pentagon Spends $86 Million on Spy Plane That Never Got Off the Ground

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    The latest embarrassing episode for the US Department of Defense involves the agency failing to upgrade an ATR 42-500 plane that the US Drug Enforcement Administration planned to use in surveillance and anti-drug missions in Afghanistan under a seven-year-long program that has already cost four times more than intended.

    The Global Discovery program, launched in 2008, was supposed to be completed in 2012 with a total cost of $22 million. The latest estimates show that the funding has exceeded $86 million, while the aircraft remains inoperable and has never actually flown in Afghanistan, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in its audit of the Global Discovery initiative.

    "We believe that the more than $86 million spent on the purchase and modification of the DEA's ATR 500 aircraft with advanced surveillance capabilities to support the DEA's counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan has been an ineffective and wasteful use of government resources," the OIG reported.

    The agency also found that the Drug Enforcement Administration "did not fully comply" with federal acquisition regulations when choosing a plane. In addition, the DEA transferred the aircraft to the Pentagon's contractors without a written agreement that would outline the details of and the timeframe for the upgrade process.

    The OIG added that the US Defense Department contemplated pulling the plug on the program in late 2014. The agency spent nearly $66 million on the ATR 42-500 modifications but needed additional $6 million to "repair damages observed during attempts to modify the aircraft." Incidentally, a new ATR 42-500 could have been purchased for $6 million at the time.

    The OIG launched an investigation in response to a complaint from a whistleblower.

    As of March 2016, the Pentagon's efforts to modify the plane were still ongoing. The ATR 42-500 is scheduled to become operable in June 2016. One could only assume when or if the plane will be ever delivered taking into account the fact that the agency has missed all of the deadlines under the Global Discovery program before.

    Even if the required upgrades are made, the plane will most likely not be deployed to Afghanistan since the DEA has ceased its operations there.

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    Tags:
    upgrade, surveillance aircraft, aircraft, ATR 42-500, US Office of the Inspector General, US Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Defense (DoD), Pentagon, Afghanistan, United States
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