Amid Pentagon Spending Frenzy, House Passes a Few Sensible Amendments to NDAA
Today, the House of Representatives set aside partisan politics and adopted 10 sensible amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 that will enhance the national security of the United States.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and several partner organizations from across the ideological spectrum joined together to support seven of these successful amendments. In a letter to the House, the groups said that they “. . . may not agree on many things, but we all agree on this: The United States must curb wasteful and ineffective spending at the Pentagon. Doing so will save billions of valuable tax dollars as well as help to make America safer with the hard decisions our nation’s security requires.”
Here are the successful amendments supported by the coalition, the majority of which are bipartisan:
- Amendment 138. (filed as #307)—Mulvaney (R-South Carolina), Murphy (D-Florida): This bipartisan amendment puts the brakes on the Pentagon’s slush fund—the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, also known as the war funding account. The Pentagon and Congress have gotten into the regrettable habit of funding items through the OCO that are completely unrelated to the war in Afghanistan. The Mulvaney-Murphy amendment will make clear how the OCO funds can be used. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 37. (filed as #131)—Griffith (R-Virginia), Ellison (D-Minnesota): This bipartisan amendment tackles the problem of star-creep in the top-heavy military. It implements former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ efficiency initiative with respect to the top-heaviness of the military. It would eliminate three 4-star billets and five three-star billets. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 147. (filed as #278)—Polis (D-Colorado), Nadler (D-New York): The U.S. wastes billions of dollars developing missile defense platforms that are unproven and cannot perform reliably. Over the past five years, the U.S. has not conducted a single successful test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile system, yet the Pentagon continues to request additional funding for the program. This amendment encourages the Secretary of Defense to conduct successful operationally realistic tests before purchasing additional GMD interceptors. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 120. (filed as #301)—Nolan (D-Minnesota): Another area of concern in the defense budget is spending on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan that have little oversight or accountability. Indeed, by the end of 2014, many U.S.-funded projects under construction in Afghanistan will be outside of the ability of the United States to provide direct civilian oversight. This commonsense amendment would require a review of any reconstruction project over $500,000 in Afghanistan that cannot be physically inspected by the United States. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 139. (filed as #284)—Walberg (R-Michigan), Cohen (D-Tennessee): While Congress continues to appropriate funds each year for construction projects in Afghanistan, shockingly, these programs have billions of dollars in unspent funds. This bipartisan amendment that would prohibit additional funding of the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund until previously unobligated funds have been spent. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 87. (filed as #72)—Burgess (R-Texas), Lee (D-California): Keeping track of how money being spent by the Department of Defense can be a tricky task given that it is the only federal agency or department that is unable to pass a clean audit. This bipartisan amendment requires the Pentagon to provide a progress update ranking all military departments and agencies in order of how close they are to achieving audit-readiness. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 24. (filed as #221)—Blumenauer (D-Oregon): In last year’s NDAA, Congress requested that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) publish a report on the long-term estimated cost of the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal. This report found that the United States is expected to spend $355 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons and associated personnel—previously underestimated by $150 billion. This amendment requires CBO to provide these cost estimates annually. (adopted 224-199)
“It is really encouraging to see some sanity in what is otherwise an unaccountable spending frenzy, seemingly untethered from a sound national security strategy,” said Ethan Rosenkranz, the national security policy analyst at POGO. “Our coalition of unlikely allies has worked hard to support members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who call for more sensible spending to make us safer—especially those with the courage and conviction to set aside partisan politics. And we plan to continue to do so.”
Read the letter the groups sent to the House of Representative here.
In addition, POGO supported the following amendments independent of our coalition partners:
- Amendment 84. (filed as #317)—Fortenberry (R-Nebraska): In this year’s budget request, the White House proposed shifting funding from nuclear nonproliferation programs and accounts into modernization programs. This amendment requires the Pentagon to outline how it will manage its mission relating to nuclear forces, deterrence, nonproliferation and terrorism. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 86. (filed as #182)—Speier (D-California): Oftentimes, the only way for journalists and analysts to obtain Inspector General (IG) reports on misconduct at the Department of Defense is to obtain leaks from within the department or file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. This amendment requires the IG to publicly release misconduct reports for senior executive service officials, political appointees, and general and flag officers. (adopted by voice vote)
- Amendment 77. (filed as #56)—Graves, (R-MO), Duckworth (D-IL): This bipartisan amendment increases small business competition in federal contracting. (adopted by voice vote)
“We thank and commend all of the champions of all of these sensible amendments and pledge to do all we can to support these measures in the final bill,” Rosenkranz said.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.