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Pentagon and USAID watchdogs launch reviews of US pier and humanitarian aid flow into Gaza

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(WASHINGTON) — Inspectors General at the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have launched reviews of the mission to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza via the U.S. military’s temporary pier system, which has faced operational challenges since it opened in mid-May.

“The Inspectors General from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have launched coordinated, independent oversight projects related to their agencies’ respective roles in the ongoing delivery and distribution of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Gaza through the maritime corridor,” read a statement issued jointly by the offices of both Inspectors General.

“The [DOD] and USAID Offices of Inspector General (OIG) oversight initiatives are part of a collaborative effort to review key aspects of DoD’s and USAID’s shared humanitarian mission in providing U.S. assistance to Gaza.,” the statement continued.

Mollie Halpern, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense’s Inspector General, told ABC News that the independent watchdog at the Pentagon made the move due to “significant public interest in this topic.”

“We have agreed to do it independently but collaborative based on our oversight since a DOD program is involved in a shared mission with USAID in delivering and transporting the humanitarian aid into Gaza,” she added.

A USAID Inspector General spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that their review was also self-initiated by their office.

The Pentagon’s inspector general will review how the Joint Logistics Over the Shore System (JLOTS) has been used to support the humanitarian aid effort and “also examine the impact that the availability and unavailability of the JLOTS capability has on offloading from ships to move aid to shore,” Halpern told ABC News.

“This particular review will not focus on the JLOT capabilities construction, its capabilities as it relates to weather, or training,” she added.

The USAID Inspector General “will assess USAID’s plans and controls over the distribution of humanitarian assistance through the maritime corridor, including aid that has reached the beach in Gaza. In particular, USAID OIG will assess the handover of aid from the DOD-controlled maritime pier to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), USAID’s lead implementing partner for distribution of aid in Gaza,” according to the statement issued jointly by both watchdogs.

The JLOTS pier has experienced operational challenges as the rough waters of the Mediterranean Sea have forced it to cease operations twice, the first time after a storm broke off sections of the pier and the second time after the pier was moved ahead of a forecast of rough waters.

As of Thursday, the pier has been operational 21 of the 42 days since it was first anchored to the beach in Gaza, according to information provided to ABC News by U.S. Army Central Command. The Pentagon estimates that the pier’s operations will cost $230 million through its authorized end date of July 31, though U.S. officials now say it could be extended beyond that date.

As many as 6,200 metric tons (equal to 13.6 million pounds) of aid has been delivered to a staging area on the beach where it was to be loaded onto WFP trucks for distribution into Gaza, but the United Nations agency has not picked up any aid from there since June 9 when it suspended the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza from the pier and other points of entry into Gaza.

That followed the Israeli military’s rescue operation of four Israeli hostages held by Hamas, which included the use of the beach next to the JLOTS temporary pier so that Israeli helicopters could ferry the hostages back to Israel. The U.S. military stressed that it was not involved in the raid and that the pier was strictly being used for a humanitarian mission.

The pier’s limited operations have also drawn criticism from Republican critics on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Rogers, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, called on the Biden administration to halt the pier’s operations, calling it “a gross waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“I urge the administration to immediately cease this failed operation before further catastrophe occurs and consider alternative means of land and air-based humanitarian aid delivery,” Rogers wrote in a letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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