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Washington Post’s $125 Billion Pentagon Waste Story is a Perfect Illustration of Longstanding Problems

Watercolor outline of Pentagon building with hundred dollar bills swirling out of it

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), issued the following statement on today’s Washington Post article on a report spelling out ways the Department of Defense could save $125 billion:

This story is a perfect illustration of the biggest problems affecting the Defense Department: a contractor workforce that costs too much and a fear that exposing waste will lead to cuts in defense spending. It and other reports also show there are plenty of opportunities to cut Pentagon spending and the next administration should be skeptical of anyone who tells them otherwise.

In 2011, POGO’s Bad Business report found federal contractors were sometimes more than four times as expensive as federal employees performing the same jobs, and that contractors were more expensive than private sector employees in nearly every job category we examined.

In 2013, POGO highlighted a GAO report documenting DoD failures in hiring a cost-efficient workforce.

In 2014, POGO warned then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about a “concerted effort” by DoD officials to “willfully breach laws and congressional mandates” that require better tracking of service contracts. This effort blinds the agency to potentially billions of dollars in wasteful spending.

This year, POGO signed a letter with groups across the political spectrum urging Congress to consider cuts to contracting spending. It was estimated that reducing service contracting by 15 percent would save $23.4 billion.

Fearing that opening their books will lead to pressure to cut defense spending, military leaders have fostered a culture of secrecy. The latest example is the Pentagon’s request for a special exemption from government-wide reforms in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, signed into law in July. Fortunately, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees removed this harmful secrecy provision from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Nevertheless, the Department of Defense remains the only federal agency that has not complied with a 1990 law to audit its books.

For more resources, see POGO's Scott Amey's testimony on the cost of contractors, and letters sent by POGO to Congress, to the Office of Management and Budget, and to the Department of Defense.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Audit the Pentagon, Department of Defense (DOD)

Authors: Ari Goldberg

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