legalization | 12.11.2019

DEA Drug Fighting Plane That Doesn’t Fly But Has Soaring Costs

The DEA and DOD spent more than $86 million to purchase and modify a DEA aircraft, 7 years after the aircraft was purchased for the program it’s still never flown.

If you weren’t already disgusted with how your tax dollars are being wasted on a failing war against a plant, you have a new reason. The DEA is blowing your money on projects that never even get off the ground, and acting like spoiled trust fund babies with a blank check.

Discovering another huge waste

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Back in 2008, the DEA bought an ATR 42-500 aircraft for a joint operation in counter-narcotics in Afghanistan. They purchased the plane for a whopping $8.6 million dollars, even though it couldn’t fly. Guess what, it is now 2016 and the plane still hasn’t been in the air. Worse, the Office of the Inspector General determined:

“Collectively, the DEA and DOD spent more than $86 million to purchase and modify a DEA aircraft with advanced surveillance equipment to conduct operations in the combat environment of Afghanistan, in what became known as the Global Discovery Program.  We found that more than 7 years after the aircraft was purchased for the program, it remains inoperable, resting on jacks in Delaware, and has never flown in Afghanistan.”

Wait, how much?

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$86 million dollars… for a scrapyard relic that doesn’t run. The operation that it was originally intended for ended in July of last year. Now the DEA says they want to pour even more money into it and try to use it in less dangerous areas of operation like Central and South America or the Carribean and have projected a completion date of June.

The next problem? The same ones as before. Christine Hinton-Martinez, leader of an IG team of auditors based in San Francisco, has serious doubts.

“However, even if they can meet that new target date, DEA and DOD officials estimate that the aircraft will not be completed with all previously agreed-upon modifications,”

Avoiding accountability

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According to Pentagon spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, the DOD:

“eliminated funding for the program in the Fiscal Year 16 budget, however we continue to manage a firm-fixed-price contract that requires the upgraded aircraft be delivered by June of this year.”

The DEA gave a typically non-committal answer when asked about the IG’s findings.

“Reviews by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) are necessary and important, and DEA welcomes recommendations that make us better.  DEA agrees that it can and should provide better oversight of its operational funding.  We are reviewing policies and procedures to ensure the limited resources allocated to DEA are utilized in the most responsible and effective way possible.”

Shifting the blame

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When responding to the IG office itself on the matter, the DEA tried to pass the blame on the DOD for only supplying an additional $29 million to support the project. When it spoke of the difficulties in getting the aircraft completed, the DEA said it

“had previous positive experiences utilizing DoD contractors for modifying DEA aircraft.”

The big difference was that until this time,

“DEA utilized its own funding, and therefore, had the latitude to be more involved in the modification process. Based upon that previous experience, DEA had no indication that the Global Discovery modification would encounter the significant delays and problems that ultimately occurred.”

Poor planning, compounded

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According to the IG report, they must have had some idea. By 2012, the had busted every intended delivery date established. Then they spent another $1.9 million in December of that year to build a hanger for the plane at the Kabul International Airport, even though the Inspector General said that the plane would “most likely never be housed in the hanger.

The Inspector General’s report also states the DEA failed to fully comply with acquisition regulations, and failed to consider basic operating requirements, including:

“the time and cost it would incur to establish an infrastructure of pilots, mechanics, trainers, and spare parts required to operate the aircraft.”

Cost vs Value

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What have our tax dollars been dumped into? In 2014, the DOD (not exactly the best role model for frugal budgeting) was ready to cut the program at a loss. Over $65.9 million had already been spent, and another $6 million in repairs were still needed to fix damage done to the aircraft installing surveillance and communications equipment, even though the market value of the plane was only $6 million.

Just to put things into perspective

  • The DEA bought a used ATR 42-500 for $8.6 million, though it’s market value was only $6 million, knowing it would need millions in repairs jut to fly.
  • There are 2 types of ATR-500 series planes: the 42 and 72. The 42 is the smaller and cheaper one.
  • A brand new, fully-operational 42 would have been only $12 million.
  • A brand new 72-500 would have been only $12.6 million.
  • The ATR 42-500 only has an out & back flight range of 360NM without refueling.
  • Only 14% of missions flown by the DEA in Afghanistan were for surveillance. The rest of flights were for transport.
  • Over 1,000 flight requests for the DEA went unfulfilled. The State Department flew over 1,200 times to pick up the slack.

Are you sick of the DEA wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on the so-called War on Drugs? Sound off on social media or in the comments below.

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