U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., hopes to learn more Thursday about allegations of significant financial waste at the Pentagon, and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said Congress must take part of the blame for “blocking even modest attempts to reform” the Department of Defense.
The Washington Post first published the story about a report identifying $125 billion in wasted money related to numerous inefficiencies at the Pentagon. Pentagon officials also are accused of burying the report to avoid giving Congress a reason to reduce the defense budget.
The report, produced by the Defense Business Board, a panel of corporate executives supported by consultants from McKinsey and Company, suggested the Pentagon could save $125 billion over five years if it “would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.” The report also showed that the Department of Defense was paying 1.014 million contractors, civilians and other workers to support 1.3 million troops.
Through a statement to Talk Business & Politics from his office, Boozman said he plans to talk to Air Force leadership about findings in the report.
“I am committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to accomplish their missions and protect our country. The Pentagon must do its part by eliminating waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars intended to safeguard our troops. On Thursday I intend to discuss this issue with Air Force leaders and my Senate colleagues at the Senate Air Force Caucus breakfast to understand this story further and determine what needs to be done prevent any abuse of taxpayer money.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a frequent advocate for more defense spending, was unable to comment because he was with his wife who was in labor.
Hill, who represents Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District in central Arkansas, on Wednesday (Dec. 7) issued his monthly “Golden Fleece” award to the Pentagon, but also blamed Congressional interference for some of the problem.
“We are all too often to blame for blocking even modest attempts to reform the workforce needs at DoD with local, parochial concerns getting in the way of the bigger picture,” Hill said in a statement. “I saw this firsthand last year when a plan to consolidate our Air Force C-130J planes for effectiveness and efficiency was defeated. Previously, U.S. Air Force officials had highlighted the transfer of 10 C-130J aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base to Little Rock Air Force Base as a critical cost saving initiative, along with other force structure changes, of $922 million, across the future years defense plan (FYDP), a five-year plan, for savings.”
Continuing, Hill noted: “While I am giving the Golden Fleece Award to the Pentagon, there is no doubt that Congress can do more to address the pressing needs of our country and better allocate federal dollars and resources for the benefit our country and hardworking taxpayers.”
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter seeking answer to four questions related to the Defense Business Board report.
• What actions, if any, are being taken to address the findings of the Defense Business Board?
• Following the presentation of the Board’s findings, what directives or action items were made to implement the recommended cost savings and are those efforts still underway? What office is overseeing those efforts to ensure compliance? How are savings being calculated?
• What statutory obstacles may exist that would require legislative fixes from Congress to achieve these savings?
• Which of the Board’s findings and cost savings suggestions do you think should be included in the Department’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request?
“Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen stated in 2010 that ‘the most significant threat to our national security is our debt.’ Since that time, Pentagon officials have come before Congress to scare off efforts to reduce unnecessary spending at the Department with nightmare scenarios including reduced combat readiness and cuts to military operations,” Flake noted in his letter. “The recent findings by the Defense Business Board that nearly a quarter of the Pentagon’s $580 billion budget is being spent on overhead and operations is, therefore, of both great concern and promise.”
Because Secretary Carter is a member of the Obama Administration and does not report directly to Congress, it is uncertain when or if Flake’s question’s will be answered.