Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project
Areas of Expertise: National Security, Pentagon Reform
PGP Fingerprint: F117 21CB 3DC2 28ED 001A 4480 4AD5 68A2 AC2E AEA0
Ms. Smithberger, a former national security policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) worked on passing key provisions of the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law, which expands protections by increasing the level of Inspector General review for complaints, requiring timely action on findings of reprisal, and increasing the time whistleblowers have to report reprisals.
She also worked on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required closer scrutiny of the Littoral Combat Ship program’s deficiencies, including limiting the Navy to purchasing only the number of mission modules required for operational testing.
Smithberger, who has a Masters in Strategic Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, also served as an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Central Command.
Revealing how much the Air Force’s B-21 is costing won’t help America’s enemies — but will make oversight possible.
Degrading Women in Your Office is More than Just Impolite
Any restraint in Pentagon spending often buckles under the pressure of pork barrel politics
If the military starts comparing price tags, taxpayers could save millions
Testing Report Contradicts Air Force Leadership’s Rosy Pronouncements
The Department of Defense remains the only federal agency that can’t get a clean audit opinion on its Statement of Budgetary Resources
A diverse group of organizations with a range of missions and perspectives sent a letter opposing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force proposed by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). This new authorization would cede to the Executive Branch Congress’ power under Article I of the Constitution to declare war and would authorize this president and future presidents to send American troops to countries where we are not currently at war—with no meaningful limitations on the type of force that may be used or whom it may be used against. Such an authorization is not an improvement over the status quo; it is a dangerous and unnecessary expansion of the president’s war powers that would completely undermine the purported purposes behind the bill.
The Project On Government Oversight sent a letter commenting on reforms proposed in the Comprehensive Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform and Reduction Act and the Accelerating the Pace of Acquisitions Reform Act of 2018. While some proposals could increase oversight and reduce costs, many others would reduce the effectiveness of weapon systems, increase wasteful spending, and make it more difficult for the Department of Defense to identify and enact significant cost savings.
POGO's Mandy Smithberger testifies before the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to call for strengthening Congress's ability to conduct oversight over classified programs and spending by providing compartmentalized clearances to personal office staff on key oversight committees.
A broad group of organizations from across the ideological spectrum urged the House Armed Services Committee to reconsider its decision to hold closed, classified roundtables in lieu of open hearings with service chiefs. Opening those proceedings allows for citizens to see how the Committee assesses national security needs against available resources, and deepens public understanding of Congress’s central role in establishing and supporting our national security strategy.
Multiple government investigations have substantiated allegations of reprisal against Michael Sandknop, a defense contractor whistleblower. The Army and the National Guard, like the rest of the federal government, increasingly relies upon contractors to provide goods and services. The failure by the Army and the National Guard to act would sending a troubling message that those who expose contractor waste, fraud, and abuse will not be protected.
POGO sent a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging them to prioritize proposals that will save taxpayer dollars and increase the military's effectiveness.
The Project On Government Oversight urges the Senate Armed Services committees to maintain requirements for comparative testing to determine if more expensive weapon systems provide an actual gain in capability over legacy systems, and, if so, whether that gain is worth the extra cost and additional logistic and maintenance burdens.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) joined a bipartisan coalition of organizations urging the House and Senate Armed Services committees to reject a proposal to authorize a block buy--called an economic order quantity--for the F-35. Authorizing an economic order quantity for the F-35 before testing is complete is likely to increase costs to taxpayers and put the Department on the hook for costly retrofits.
The Center for Defense Information and the Project On Government Oversight joined defense experts across the political spectrum in asking the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to authorize a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Round. Previous rounds save taxpayers $13 billion per year, and the Pentagon believes another round would save an additional $2 billion annually.
A coalition of whistleblower advocates sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis raising concerns about the message sent by not punishing two high-ranking officials found to retaliate against whistleblowers. Last year Inspectors General found both Navy Rear Admiral Brian Losey and National Security Agency (NSA) Inspector General Dr. George Ellard had illegally retaliated against whistleblowers.
Numerous studies have identified the need for reforms to the size and structure of the Pentagon's workforce, including a study by the Project On Government Oversight that found the average annual contractor billable rate was much more than the average annual full compensation for federal employees performing comparable services.
The Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (DoD IG) was intended to be an office that would work with and protect those whistleblowers. However, for years independent evaluations of the DoD IG, including a report on the Administrative Investigation division’s military reprisal investigations issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year, have raised serious concerns about the office’s capacity and willingness to provide independent oversight of the Department’s treatment of whistleblowers.
The Project On Government Oversight joined groups across the political spectrum urging Senators to reject amendments to increased spending for the Department of Defense beyond what was allowed in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015, including an amendment offered by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain to fund military service wishlists - called "unfunded priorities" - by increasing the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) war spending account by $17 billion.
POGO and CDI sent a letter to Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Glenn Fine urging him to address significant deficiencies in the office's military reprisal investigations, including attempts to change case files under review by the Government Accountability Office.
In a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, POGO outlines key acquisition reform policies, wasteful defense spending in conventional and nuclear weapons and MOX, support for close air support and the A-10, and oversight over risky weapon programs like the littoral combat ship (LCS) and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
High level Navy officials seem to have violated anti-lobbying provisions to garner support for the Navy's Ohio Replacement program.
POGO sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) raising concerns that Rear Admiral Joe Tofalo, currently under consideration to become Vice Admiral Naval Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR); commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; and commander, Allied Submarine Command, Norfolk, Virginia.
Reforms proposed by the House Armed Services Committee likely exacerbate the Pentagon's systemic waste and mismanagement problems.
How Air Force Headquarters cooked the friendly fire numbers to spin USA Today on the A-10.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) applauds the fact that your committees have conducted oversight of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). However, POGO is concerned that some of the reforms being implemented at DCAA as a result of your investigations are only superficial fixes in order to alleviate political pressure on the agency.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is concerned by the news that President-elect Barack Obama has selected retired Admiral Dennis C. Blair to be the Director of National Intelligence, even after a POGO investigation revealed--and a Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) report confirmed--that Blair violated financial conflict of interest policies while serving as the head of a defense research institute.
House leadership used a procedural gimmick to block an amendment offered by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) in order to avoid an up or down vote to authorize our current wars.
POGO has launched a training program to educate would-be whistleblowers on tactics to safely disclose information through protected channels and to understand their protections in case of retaliation.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program provides a step-by-step case study in acquisition failures and the costs and risks of unacceptable levels of concurrency. Moreover, it shows how Congress repeatedly failed to intervene despite warnings from independent analysists and watchdogs that this program was grossly off track.
On October 31st former Center for Defense Information President and Co-Founder Admiral Gene La Rocque passed away. The Project On Government Oversight is proud to carry on his legacy of challenging the military-industrial complex.
The Air Force claims the mystery price tag is necessary to prevent adversaries from learning too much about the B-21 aircraft.
The Department of Defense's proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 continues a tradition of war-spending budget gimmicks and funding over-priced weapon programs like the F-35.
A recent video from The New York Times and Retro Report features POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian explaining how the Pentagon's largest procurement program went wrong.
POGO was joined by 21 other civil society organizations across the political spectrum in requesting Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough to investigate whether the Insider Threat Program is being used to improperly target whistleblowers like Thomas Drake.
In a Veterans’ Day OpEd, Center for Defense Information Military Advisory Board member Lt. Col. Daniel Davis USA (ret.) argues that we must do more to protect whistleblowers in the military.
Implementing a recommendation from POGO's Center for Defense Information, the Department of Defense announced that they will conduct a fly off between the A-10 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to determine if the $1.4 trillion program demonstrates that it can perform the essential close air support (CAS) mission more effectively and efficiently than the A-10.
A new comparative analysis found that DoD IG oversight of Afghanistan is a woefully inadequate substitute for the work the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) performs exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan.
The most recent report by the Government Accountability Office confirms the benefits of weapon testing and proves just how wrong industry critics are about the alleged costs and delays caused by independent, realistic weapons testing.
Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, who his today testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, is being retaliated against for making protected whistleblower disclosures to House Armed Services committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) regarding dysfunctions in recovering American hostages, including Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. POGO stands by Lt. Col. Amerine and urges Congress to expand protections for all military whistleblowers.
Navy efforts to establish an off-budget Sea-Based Deterrence Fund may have included illegal grassroots lobbying by Navy leadership to garner congressional support. POGO sent a letter to the GAO asking them to investigate remarks made by Admiral John Richardson, nominated to be President Obama's next Chief of Naval Operations, and Rear Admiral Joe Tofalo, under consideration to become Vice Admiral.
Congress stood up for ground troops and approved an amendment to save the A-10.
POGO has received lobbying documents that show that proposed changes to commercial items definitions and procurement processes come at the behest of industry. And if history is any guide, the Defense Department and taxpayers will have to eat the costs of the new “efficiencies.”
Weapon acquisition reform legislation under consideration in the House Armed Services committee will only increase risks and costs and hurt our future modernization efforts.
The significant problems in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program call into question whether it is ready for increased production in Fiscal Year 2016. But a new report and testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) signals what might be the program's acute point of vulnerability, and perhaps the beginning of its unravelling: we just can't afford it.
The F-35 continues to fail the most basic requirements for combat aircraft and commonsense. Despite reforms, the F-35 continues to be unaffordable, its engines continue to be susceptible to fire, and the Pentagon continues to misrepresent its performance.
Pratt & Whitney won’t tell the Air Force how much it charges commercial companies for its aircraft engines, which means the federal government has no idea whether it’s getting the shaft.
Overcharges for weapon spare parts continue to be the most obvious area of Pentagon waste, which will continue until Congress's acquisition reform efforts include updating the definition of commercial items.
The best A-10 endorsements, however, continue to come from the people in the best position to talk about the A-10’s capabilities. Troops such as the six Marines who credit an A-10 crew for saving them by intentionally drawing fire way from their position.
The confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Ash Carter should include questions about the revolving door, his acquisition reform efforts, and if he is willing to take on military services that put weapon systems ahead of our armed forces.
Below is an assessment of the total national security spending budget, including $417.4 billion not typically discussed as part of our national defense budget proposal.
Congress addresses the financial costs of star creep by cutting excessive pensions and perks for military officers that are in excess of what they received when they were serving in uniform.
New testimony from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) argues that the answer may be yes, at least to the extent that reforms gave Congress more tools to conduct oversight.
Among the final acts of the last Congress was approving a continuing resolution that authorized the Navy to buy 20 sea frames of both the Lockheed Martin and Austal USA versions of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) isn't the only agency that struggles to ensure that it's oversight officials have the independence they need to effectively root out waste, fraud, and misconduct.
On April 9, the Air Force announced that a CV-22 Opsrey crashed in the Zabul Province of southern Afghanistan, killing three service members, one civilian employee, and injuring many others. The aircraft had only been delivered to Afghanistan a few days before as part of the first deployment of Air Force Osreys to the country.
To the Editor: Remember the controversy over the F-35 in Burlington? Here is some information that should interest everyone. Contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin on Oct. 26,2001 (15 years ago) for this $1.4 trillion dollar program, yes, $1.4 trillion dollars for one aircraft. After many years of development and testing, this aircraft has serious maintenance and reliability problems. Testing found that the Marine Corps did not and could not show that its Variant “Was operationally effective or suitable for use in any type of limited combat operation or that it was ready for real world operational deployment.” Combat requires a readiness rate of 80%, but during demonstrations, the F-35 struggled to maintain a 50% readiness level. Ultimately, The Project On Government Oversight revealed that the JSF program office and the Marine Corps were doggedly determined to reap the public relations benefits of meeting their artificial combat capability deadline—-even if in name only— no matter what, the Marine Corps declared its variant of the F-35 ready for combat. Earlier this year, a leaked test report found that the F-35 was constantly outmatched in dogfights against the F-16, a 30-year-old platform it is supposed to replace. The test pilot found the F-35 to be substantially inferior to older planes like the F-15s, F16s and F-18s. Each report only increases concerns that taxpayers are paying a premium for less capability then we currently have. Congress must slow down the production of the F-35 until real operational testing is complete and to resist calls from the Pentagon and the F-35 program office to retire proven platforms needed to meet today’s current threats. Joe DeMarco WWII Veteran Jay, N.Y.