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Project on Government Oversight

POGO 2006 Accomplishments

The following are just a few examples of POGO's accomplishments in 2006:

IMPROVING CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT

In recent years, a variety of factors have led to the demise of vigorous Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch, including the declining experience of Congressional staff members and bitter partisanship.  In 2006, POGO launched a monthly training series aimed at teaching a new generation of Congressional staff the art and science of government oversight.  Veteran Capitol Hill and Executive Branch investigators and investigative journalists imparted their wisdom on such topics as working with whistleblowers and insiders, investigating companies, rooting out documents from government agencies, preparing for oversight hearings, and the rights of Congress to access classified information.  The training series was co-chaired by the Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ).


HOLDING GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS ACCOUNTABLE

Since 2000, just a short span of six years, government spending on contractors doubled from $200 billion to $400 billion. This increase in spending followed a decrease in taxpayer protections—a rollback that contractors had long been advocating.

Over this same period POGO has been a central player in the effort to inform the public about the government's failures to hold its contractors accountable.  In 2006 alone, POGO educated policymakers about contracting problems in such issue areas as the Iraq reconstruction and Hurricane Katrina response efforts.  POGO's 2006 report Federal Contracting: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina provided key insights to Congress about the need for reforms to prevent contracting debacles in future emergency response actions. Highlights from 2006 include:

  • Improving Taxpayer Protections. A much-anticipated government report on contracting rules endorsed many of POGO's recommendations to strengthen taxpayer protections in contracting. The report, completed by a panel of contracting experts, was a huge blow to the contracting industry, given that the report is serving as a road map for efforts to reform the system.

  • Fighting Wasteful No-Bid Contracts. The Air Force suspended a $900 million no-bid contract with Hamilton Sundstrand, based on POGO's analysis that found the company had increased pricing for some parts by as much as 900 percent. The suspension will save the taxpayers as much as $664 million. POGO has used this example to educate the public and the Congress about the perils of no-bid contracts.

PROTECTING NATIONAL SECURITY

The "Iron Triangle"—Congress, the Pentagon, and defense contractors—is stronger than ever before.  The resulting decisions line the pockets of special interests at the expense of legitimate national security needs.  In 2006, POGO continued to draw attention to numerous cases where national security was compromised by greed and incompetence. Highlights from 2006 include:

  • Fighting Conflicts of Interest. At a highly-charged Senate hearing, POGO testified about its investigative findings that the head of an influential federal research center, the Institute for Defense Analysis, held stock options in companies that stood to benefit from his institute's research on the F-22A fighter jet. The controversial revelation led to the resignation of that institute's top official, and prompted government research centers to strengthen conflict-of-interest rules to prevent future conflicts of interest.

  • Challenging Wasteful Weapons. The Air Force announced $168 million in savings from the restructuring of a contract to purchase C-130J military airlift planes.  This restructuring was a result of POGO's 2005 report, Taxpayers Carry The Load: The C-130J Cargo Plane Does Not, on abuses in the contract, and the efforts of Senator John McCain.


PROTECTING THE NATION'S NATURAL RESOURCES

Every year, a little-known agency inside the Department of Interior is responsible for collecting billions of dollars in fees, known as royalties, from multinational oil companies drilling on federal and Indian lands.  A series of investigations by POGO in the 1990s exposed that the agency, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was falling down on the job of collecting royalties, and prompted almost $1 billion in increased collections. In 2006, POGO re-opened its investigations in this area.  We exposed that MMS was refusing to audit oil companies drilling on federal and Indian lands, despite the fact that conducting audits is the only way to ensure the companies pay fair value. With sky-rocketing gas and oil profits, it is concerning that royalties collected have plummeted by as much as $100 million annually.


CHALLENGING EXCESSIVE GOVERNMENT SECRECY

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the federal government has been on an unrestrained secrecy binge, putting millions of documents out of the public's reach.  Yet the documents the government is putting off limits frequently have less to do with keeping our nation secure and more to do with hiding corruption and mismanagement.  POGO has been working to get the government to switch its focus from keeping the secrets that protect it to keeping the secrets that protect us.  Highlights from 2006 include:

  • Countering Excessive Homeland Security Secrecy. Working with open government advocates and 9/11 family members, POGO helped get legislation passed that makes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) more accountable in how it applies secrecy designations to documents. This was an important step because, if DHS is allowed to continue overusing secrecy designations, information that could be vital to preventing future disasters will not be shared among federal security agencies or with the public.

  • Strengthening Public Access to Government Information. POGO worked in coalition with dozens of organizations to educate Congress and the public about the need to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.  Although this law is weak, it is still the best tool at the public's disposal to shine light on government operations.

  • Strengthening Whistleblower Protections. In 2006, POGO's report, Homeland and National Security Whistleblowers: The Unfinished Agenda, helped set the stage for Congress to take a much more aggressive approach to protecting whistleblowers. POGO also continued to expose the failings of the Office of Special Counsel, one of the key agencies tasked with protecting whistleblowers. As a result, that agency is now under federal investigation.


TRANSFORMING THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX

Although the Cold War ended almost twenty years ago, the federal government continues to sustain an obsolete set of facilities nationwide, which unnecessarily costs billions of dollars and which poses significant homeland security risks.  In recent years, POGO's investigations into the nuclear weapons complex have drawn much-needed public attention to the Department of Energy's failures to manage the complex and prompted dramatic reforms nationwide.  Highlights from 2006 include:

  • Increasing Cyber-Security. POGO has argued for years that the government should better protect highly classified nuclear weapons information on its computers, repeatedly exposing cyber-security breaches.  In 2006, POGO exposed an extraordinary breech of security—hundreds of pages of highly classified information from Los Alamos National Laboratory were discovered during a trailer park methamphetamine lab bust.  The disclosure resulted in the resignation of the head of the nation's nuclear weapons complex, extensive oversight hearings by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and numerous government investigations.  The incident has brought renewed pressure to adequately protect those of the nation's secrets that do need to be protected.

  • Improving Nuclear Weapons Security. In 2006, the Department of Energy announced that it would remove all bomb-grade nuclear weapons materials from half of its facilities nationwide, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is precariously located in the densely populated San Francisco Bay area.  The government's plans are based in large part on POGO's recommendations in its 2005 report, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Homeland Security Opportunities.  As a result of DOE's decision, millions of Americans in communities nationwide will be safer, and billions of taxpayer dollars will be saved in security costs.

    Also in 2006, POGO released a new report, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory at High Risk.  POGO's investigation revealed, among other problems, that dangerous nuclear materials at the Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee were inadequately protected.  As a result, the Department of Energy announced plans to permanently downblend those materials, making them unusable.

  • Improving Safety. POGO's investigations drew attention to troubling safety failures at the Pantex nuclear facility in Texas, which is responsible for dismantling nuclear weapons.  As a result, the federal government launched an investigation into excessive overtime hours worked by production technicians and other concerns, and significantly increased the number of workers performing this important task.