OpenSecrets.Org: Defense Contractors Spent Big in Afghanistan Before the U.S. Left and the Taliban Took Control

(Photo by SHAKIB RAHMANI / AFP via Getty Images)

By Anna Massoglia and Julia Forrest, OpenSecrets, 8/20/21

In the months leading up to the U.S. ending its 20-year war in Afghanistan and the Taliban gaining control of the country, major defense companies were awarded contracts in Afghanistan worth hundreds of millions of dollars and spent tens of millions lobbying the federal government on defense issues. 

The Department of Defense issued nearly $1 billion dollars in contracts to 17 companies related to work in Afghanistan that was set to continue past the May 1 withdrawal date. 

It’s unclear what will happen with some of those contracts as the U.S. evacuates operations in Afghanistan.

Texas-based defense contractor and construction firm Fluor received contracts of at least $85 million this year for work in Afghanistan. The company recently said it will “continue to do everything we can to repatriate all employees required to leave Afghanistan.” Fluor spent over $1.4 million on lobbying in the first half of 2021, around $115,000 more than the firm spent in the same period in 2020. 

In May, defense contractor Leidos was awarded a $34 million government contract to continue providing logistics support services for the Afghan Air Force and the Special Mission Wing. The U.S. Army Contracting Command awarded Leidos an initial $727.89 million contract on Aug. 17 in 2017. Leidos spent $1.18 million on lobbying in the first half of 2021. 

On March 11, the Defense Department signed a contract with Salient Federal Services for information technology infrastructure in Afghanistan, a deal worth approximately $24.9 million and set to be completed in March 2022. 

It’s not yet known if these contracts will be voided now that the situation has drastically changed in Afghanistan.

The following day, the Defense Department signed a contract with Textron for $9.7 million in force-protection efforts in Afghanistan, an effort that was expected to be completed by March 2022, long after even Biden’s planned withdrawal date. Textron spent $4.47 million lobbying in 2020 and has already spent $2.4 million in 2021.

Maryland-based defense support services conglomerate Amentum Services was awarded more than $305 million in defense contracts mentioning Afghanistan since 2008. The Department of Defense awarded DynCorp International, which was subsumed by Amentum in 2020, more than $4 billion in defense contracts mentioning Afghanistan since 2008.   

Amentum Services, which was awarded tens of millions of dollars in government contracts in 2020 alone, spent $980,000 on lobbying the federal government on defense issues in 2020 and another $340,000 in the first half of 2021. 

Security contracts worth $68.2 million with Aegis Defense Services, a private security service organization, were also slated to be completed in 2023 and 2026. 

Five of the top defense companies, Lockheed MartinBoeingRaytheonGeneral Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, spent a combined $34.2 million in lobbying in the first half of 2021 compared to about $33 million in the same period of 2020. Raytheon spent the most on lobbying with $8.23 million so far in 2021. The second most was spent by Lockheed Martin at $7.4 million

The Congressional Research Service found that the Defense Department also obligated more money on federal contracts during the 2020 fiscal year than all other government agencies combined with around 31% of its contracts going to the five companies. 

People with ties to the defense industry have also been in positions to influence decision-making about the withdrawal from Afghanistan — including Retired General Joseph F. Dunford and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who are two of three co-chairs on the congressionally-chartered Afghanistan Study Group.

The majority of plenary members on the Afghanistan Study Group, which advised President Joe Biden to extend the originally-negotiated May 1 deadline for withdrawing from Afghanistan, also have ties to the defense industry. A couple of those members include former President Donald Trump’s principal deputy director of national intelligence, Susan M. Gordon, and Stephen J. Hadley, former President George W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser…

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