Audit the Pentagon: The Defense Department is wasting your money, and it’s time for Congress to put a stop to it

In the film Independence Day, President Thomas Whitmore, played by Bill Pullman, is absolutely stunned to learn that the Defense Department had constructed a massive complex, known as Area 51, to hide the existence of aliens.

“I don’t understand, where does all this come from?” he asks. “How do you get funding for something like this?” Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) sarcastically replies, ”You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?”

While there isn’t an alien threat (or is there?), the Defense Department has become rife with waste. Businessweek takes note of a recent Government Accountability Office that documents the spending problems at the Pentagon:

Across the military, the average major Pentagon acquisition comes in at 40 percent over budget, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. In spite of the Pentagon’s well-documented history of profligacy, the Congress continues to enlarge its responsibilities. The DOD’s mandate now includes wide-ranging scientific and medical research and international infrastructure projects, diffusing the focus on its core mission—like buying planes that don’t set themselves afire on the runway. That’s a disservice to America’s military and a burden to the country’s taxpayers.

The F-35′s grounding is the latest setback in the development of an aircraft that’s already cost $400 billion. A recent GAO report noted that cost estimates for operating and supporting the F-35 fleet are now more than $1 trillion, “which DOD officials have deemed unaffordable.” The report went on: “Reliability is lower than expected for two variants” of the F-35, and the program has “limited additional opportunities to improve reliability.”

Meanwhile, Pentagon procurement is also running amok elsewhere: in the same week as the F-35 engine fire, the DOD’s inspector general issued a report on excess payments such as a payment to Bell Helicopters for gears at $8,124 each—more than 18 times the expected cost of $445.

The USS Gerald Ford (still in dry dock) is already more than $2 billion over budget, and the Navy has slashed orders for the Littoral Combat Ship, which has proved much more expensive to run than predicted and is “not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment” according to the DOD’s director of operational testing and evaluation.

The overspending doesn’t end at fighter jets, helicopters, and other advanced weapons. Nope. Businessweek explains that the Defense Department even overspends on prescription drugs.

But don’t ask Congress — especially hawkish, Old Guard Republicans — to do anything about it. They’ll cringe at the thought of defense “spending cuts,” claiming that the Defense Department can’t survive on a $520 billion (FY 2014) budget. Sure, they’ll pay lip service to the need to eliminate waste, but they don’t ever go out of their way to make it happen.

In the same spirit that brought Audit the Fed, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is going after the Defense Department’s spending habits. He’s pushing legislation (S.1510) to audit the Pentagon, which would bring some much needed transparency and accountability to the Defense Department:

With a budget in excess of $500 billion a year — more than the gross domestic products of countries such as Austria, Norway, Belgium and 180 or so other nations — not knowing where this money is going isn’t just lawless, it is a threat to both our economic and national security. Put simply, military and civilian leaders cannot make informed budget decisions in an environment in which valid and accurate financial data does not exist. Without an annual financial audit, the Pentagon does not know if every valuable tax dollar is spent on the highest-value programs or, more fundamentally, if it even got what it paid for last year.
Who can blame our military leaders for spending more time tracking congressional appetites for pork than their own spending? When our military leaders receive funds without accountability, they have zero incentive to do the hard work of producing auditable books.

The only way this cycle can be broken is for the American people to demand that Congress use its power of the purse to demand accountability at the Defense Department, rather than simply rubber-stamp the defense budget.

The measure has bipartisan support both inside and outside of Congress. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, for example, endorsed the measure just this month, saying that it ”[t]his [bill] is going to change how the world works.”

With the recent report from Congressional Budget Office showing that the federal budget is on a sustainable path, largely due to the growth of entitlement programs, reining in the waste at the Pentagon will become a necessity for lawmakers. Sorry, but there’s just no getting around that.

H/T: Campaign for Liberty

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