Afghan National Police cadets learn to assemble and de-assemble rifles.
By Cora Currier, ProPublica
The U.S. spent roughly $25 billion last year on what's loosely known as security assistance—a term that can cover everything from training Afghan security forces to sending Egypt F-16 fighter jets to equipping Mexican port police with radiation scanners.
The spending, which has soared in the past decade, can be hard to trace, funneled through dozens of sometimes overlapping programs across multiple agencies. There's also evidence it's not always wisely spent. In Afghanistan, for instance, the military bought $771 million worth of aircraft this year for Afghan pilots, most of whom still don't know how to fly them.
Last year, legislators in the House drafted a bill that would require more transparency and evaluation of security and all foreign aid programs. The bill was championed by an unlikely coalition of Tea Party budget hawks and giant aid groups such as Oxfam America.
But the Obama administration successfully pushed to have security assistance exempted from the bill's requirements, according to a letter obtained by ProPublica and interviews with Congressional staffers.
The Pentagon wrote that it "strongly" opposed last year's bill in a statement to Congressional staff laying out its "informal view" last December. "The extensive public reporting requirements raise concerns," the letter said. "Country A could…potentially learn what Country B has received in military assistance." Foreign governments would also "likely be resistant" to monitoring and evaluation from the U.S. Staffers say the State Department had also resisted the bill's increased oversight of security assistance. (The State Department declined our requests to discuss that.)