Chaffetz Leads Oversight Hearing Into Defense Dept. Waste Under Obama
March 25, 2017 134
(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Almost lost in all the hoopla over health-care bills and wiretapping allegations, the House Oversight Committee this week analyzed a topic of what could be major budgetary impact – namely, a reported $125 billion in possible, but unachieved, savings from the Department of Defense.
The DoD’s fumbling first was reported more than three months ago by the Washington Post, which said the Pentagon had “buried” the evidence (or at least tried to) of its own inefficiencies. The Pentagon’s own report had been completed way back in January of 2015, but, according to the Post’s Bob Woodward and Craig Whitlock, “after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.”
The Post story went on to say that the plan outlined in the internal report:
…would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.
The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.
Based on all this, the Oversight Committee held its hearing.
Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said, “the Pentagon study noted the potential $125 billion savings could fund 50 Army brigades, or 10 Navy Carrier strike group deployments, or 83 Air Force F-35 fighter wings. So while our troops are engaging the enemy in Iraq and Syria and patrolling the South China Sea and really helping make sure that this world and the United States is a safe place, the Pentagon is resistant to back-office cuts that would better fund and equip these men and women who are doing the hard work on the frontlines.”
A Pentagon representative partially fought back during the hearing, and seemed partially receptive. David Tillotson III, the Acting Deputy Chief Management Officer, stressed that the possible savings were cumulative, not annual – and thus nowhere near as big as casual readers of the Post story may have assumed. That said, he outlined several new efficiencies he said the department had taken in response to the 2015 internal report, and said the Pentagon was willing to do still more but needed Congress’ support to do so. He suggested, for instance, a new round of base closures, as Congress mandated a quarter century ago.
And, as Federal News Radio reported, “DoD does not have an outstanding financial history. It’s the one federal agency that’s never passed an independent audit, and it regularly appears as one of the worst offenders on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List.”
The meeting, sponsored by the Republican majority, was intended as a constructively bipartisan inquiry, but that didn’t keep some Democrats from using it as a basis for attack. “Democrats hammer Trump budget plan with DoD efficiency study,” reported Defense News.
The ranking Democratic member of the committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said the Pentagon inefficiencies prove there is no good reason for Trump to raise defense spending “by slashing dozens of critical programs that promote our national security and our nation’s most vulnerable communities—the elderly, children, and the rural working class.” Val Demings of Florida asserted that Trump’s proposed domestic “draconian cuts make us less safe.”
Chaffetz rejected that assertion, but did blast what he called “a department in chaos.” The chaos occurred under the watch of former President Obama and his Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, who “did not want to continue” the study (the one that reported the $125 billion in waste) at all.