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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Supports NDAA Amendments in the House

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May 15, 2012 | By: Angela Canterbury

Honorable Members
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

POGO’s Picks for More Savings, Security, and Accountability
in the National Defense Authorization Act:
Nine Amendments to Support

Dear Representative:

As you prepare to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2013 (NDAA) and dozens of proposed amendments, we recommend nine amendments for more savings, security, and accountability.

The Project On Government Oversight 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. POGO recently released an update to our recommendations for national security savings with Taxpayers for Common Sense—Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter[1]—which includes $700 billion in spending reductions. Some of those recommendations are being offered as amendments to the NDAA.

We haven’t assessed all of the proposed NDAA amendments, and don’t yet know which ones will be made in order. However, POGO strongly supports the following sensible measures.

1. Prevent Human Trafficking by Government Contractors —Amendment by James Lankford and Gerry Connolly

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012[2] is offered as a bipartisan amendment to stop U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding the abhorrent practice of human trafficking in war zones. In its final report to Congress last year,[3] the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”[4] Existing contracting regulations to implement anti-trafficking plans are too weak. This amendment will strengthen the law and will require companies to closely monitor and report the activities of their subcontractors down the supply chain. It also would expand the definition of “fraudulent recruiting” to apply to laborers who work on U.S. government contracts outside the U.S., mandating responsible labor recruitment practices. It’s time to end the suffering and abuses of our taxpayer-funded “shadow army.”

2. Restrict Taxpayer-Funded Compensation for Contractors —Amendment by Paul Tonko and Jackie Speier

This amendment is based on the Stop Excessive Payments to Government Contractors Act of 2011[5]—part of a bipartisan, bicameral push for reform—and would lower the existing contractor compensation cap to $400,000 and apply it to all defense contractors. Importantly, the provision would also ensure that the cap is set in such a way that it will stop the exorbitant growth rate the current formula has enabled. Taxpayer-funded contractor compensation should be reined in from the ever-increasing cap that currently well exceeds what the government pays its own senior executives—including the President.[6] The current cap for contractor compensation is $763,029.[7] It’s time to stop making taxpayers foot outrageous contractor payrolls and rein in the growing cost of the entire government workforce.[8]

3. Reduce Funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility—Amendment by Ed Markey, Loretta Sanchez, and Hank Johnson

This amendment restores the cut already made by appropriators for a costly and unnecessary plutonium research facility. It also strikes sections from H.R. 4310 that would require the completion of the proposed facility and forbid Congress from funding less expensive alternatives. The cost of this nuclear boondoggle—known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF)—has swelled from $375 million[9] to nearly $6 billion[10] over the past ten years. Earlier this year, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said it does not need CMRR-NF in order to fulfill its nuclear weapons and science missions. What’s more, there is plentiful scientific evidence and expert testimony[11 that says that the increased plutonium pit production enabled by CMRR-NF is not necessary to national security.[12] The President’s budget and House Appropriations have already zeroed-out the funding, but one member of House Armed Services—Representative Michael Turner—has ignored the evidence and sought to send more taxpayer dollars into this nuclear money pit. Support this amendment to restore sensible savings.

4. Delay the New Long-Range Penetrating Bomber Aircraft—Amendment by Ed Markey, Peter Welch, and John Conyers

This amendment delays development of the next-generation long-range penetrating bomber aircraft through FY 2023 and reduces funds for the program by about $291 million. The Administration initially cancelled the program in FY 2010 as there was “no urgent need”[13] for a new bomber because the Air Force expects its fleet of bombers to be operational for years to come.[14] According to FY 2013 budget requests, the program is projected to cost at least $6.3 billion in the next five years alone,[15] and would likely cost billions more over its lifetime. Deferring development of this costly and unnecessary system saves money and is low-risk because of robust U.S. bomb delivery capabilities that will be available for decades.

5. Stop the Rollback of Oversight of Nuclear Weapons Laboratories—Amendment by George Miller, Peter Visclosky, and Loretta Sanchez

This amendment would restore oversight over the nuclear weapons laboratories by modifying Section 3113 and striking Sections 3115 and 3202 of H.R. 4310. These sections pose dangerous rollbacks of health, safety, security, and financial oversight at the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons laboratories. Section 3113 gives the NNSA’s contractor-operated labs the ability to self-report and self-regulate their performance, despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has included these labs on its list of programs that are at “high risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse for over 20 years.[16] Section 3115 lowers the bar for health and safety standards at the labs by shifting oversight from the Department of Energy to the NNSA and its contractors. Section 3202 would weaken the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in its role as independent adviser to the nuclear weapons laboratories. Ever since the Board was created in reaction to serious safety issues at nuclear sites,[17] the Department of Energy has been required to accept Board recommendations or give a reason for their rejection,[18] but section 3202 requires the Board to submit drafts of its recommendations to the Department first, which would strip the Board of its complete independence. Section 3202 also increases the amount of time the Department has to respond to recommendations, which could undermine public health and safety.[19] We need more oversight of the contractors at our nuclear laboratories—not less.

6.  Replace the Costly Variant of the F-35 with Super Hornets—Amendment by John Conyers and Keith Ellison

The Marine Corps’ variant of the F-35 fighter plane is the most expensive variant of the most expensive DoD weapon program ever, and has been plagued by cost overruns and schedule delays.[20] This amendment would replace the 6 Marine Corps F-35s the DoD plans to buy in FY 2013 with proven F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which have many capabilities that rival the F-35[21] and cost far less to buy and operate.[22] This amendment will save taxpayers $1.7 billion in FY 2013 and millions more in operating costs over the life of these planes.

7.  Improve Service Contractor Inventories—Amendment by Jackie Speier

Currently, service contract inventories released by the Pentagon provide little, if any, useful data about service contracts. Moreover, those inventories do not provide the agency with any information that allows it to make informed personnel decisions that will save taxpayer dollars.[23] The offered amendment, which falls in line with Pentagon efforts to increase the data reported in the inventories,[24] would require DoD to collect additional data about the labor, hours, and costs of service contract workers that can be used for comparing the cost of the civilian, military, and contractor workforces.

8. Redefine “Commercial Item” for Contracts as Proposed by DoD—Amendment by Leonard Boswell

This amendment mirrors the DoD’s legislative proposal[25] and would result in improved oversight of billions of dollars’ worth of so-called “commercial” goods and services. It would narrow the definition of a “commercial item” to mean goods or services that are actually sold to the general public in like quantities. This would be a huge improvement over the current definition, which includes good or services “of a type” that are “offered” for sale or lease.[26] POGO has promoted such a change to the definition since 1999, and now have been joined by DoD,[27] the Department of Defense Panel on Contracting Integrity,[28] and the Acquisition Advisory Panel.[29] Since the mid-1990s, the government has been buying so-called “commercial” goods and services that are not actually sold in the commercial market. Making matters worse, these purchases are often without any government review of the cost data that leads to the final price the contractors are proposing. Would you buy a car if the dealer told you that you couldn’t see the window sticker? We doubt it, and the government shouldn’t either.

9. Right-Size the Bloated Top RanksAmendment by Mike Coffman

This amendment would cap the number of General/Flag Officers at “0.05 percent of the combined authorized strengths for active duty personnel.”[30] In other words, for every 2,000 troops there can be no more than one General or Admiral. This amendment will reduce the General and Flag Officer ranks by less than 5 percent.[31] At the end of FY 2011, the military was more top-heavy than it had ever been in U.S. history.[32] While the enlisted ranks have been shrinking, the top ranks have grown. Since 2001, the very top ranks, 3- and 4-star General/Flag Officers, have grown faster than any other personnel group at the DoD. It’s time to right-size the top-heavy top ranks.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these and other national security issues with you. For more information, please contact me at 202-347-1122 or acanterbury@pogo.org.

Sincerely,

Angela Canterbury
Director of Public Policy



[ 1] Project On Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense, Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter, May 8, 2012.

[ 2] U.S. Congress, “End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012,” (H.R. 4259), Introduced March 26, 2012 by Representative James Lankford. (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 3] Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling costs, reducing risks, August 2011.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 4] Commissioner Dov Zakheim, “Hearing Before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,” October 4, 2011.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 5] U.S. Congress, “Stop Excessive Taxpayer Payments to Government Contractors Act of 2011,” (H.R. 2980), Introduced September 20, 2011 by Representative Paul Tonko. (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 6] Lesley Field, Office of Management and Budget, “Ending the Overpayment of Federal Contractor Executives,” White House Blog, January 31, 2012.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 7] Office of Management and Budget, 24226 Federal Register Vol. 77, No. 78, April 23, 2012, p. 1.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012) (Hereinafter 24226 Federal Register Vol. 77, No. 78)

[ 8] Project On Government Oversight, Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors, September 13, 2012. (Hereinafter Bad Business)

[ 9] Los Alamos Study Group, LANL Master Project List, February 9, 2001, p. 1.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 10] Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, FY 2012 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan: Report to Congress, April 15, 2011, p. 65. (Downloaded May 15, 2012) (Hereinafter FY 2012 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan)

[ 11] FY 2012 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

[ 13] Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2010 Terminations, Reductions, and Savings, 2009, p. 44.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 14] The B-1B and B-2 are undergoing upgrades, and the Air Force expects the B-52 will be operational until at least 2045. Airman Charles Rivezzo, “B-1B Lancer upgrade will triple payload,” U.S. Air Force Website, April 11, 2011.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012); United States Air Force, “Air Force not being stealthy about upgrading B-2 fleet,” U.S. Air Force Website, January 4, 2007.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012);Tinker Air Force Base, “B-52 Stratofortress.”  (Downloaded May 15, 2012).

[ 15] The cost for FY 2013 is $291 million, FY 2014 is $550 million, FY 2015 is $1,045 million, FY 2016 is $1,727 million, and FY 2017 is $2,707 million. U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, Fiscal Year 2013 President’s Budget Submission: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation Vol. 2, February 2012, p. 193.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 16] Government Accountability Office, “Consolidating Surplus Nuclear Material,”  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 17] Peter Stockton and Robert Alvarez, Project On Government Oversight, “House Subcom Proposes Dramatic Shift Toward Self-Regulation of Contractors Managing Nuclear Weapons Complex,” April 27, 2012.  (Hereinafter “House Subcom Proposes Dramatic Shift”)

[ 18] Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, “Who We Are.”  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 19] “House Subcom Proposes Dramatic Shift”

[ 20] Department of Defense, Selected Acquisition Report (SAR): F-35, December 31, 2011.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012) (Hereinafter Selected Acquisition Report (SAR): F-35)

[ 21] The F/A-18E/F Super Hornets do, however, lack the F-35’s stealth and the F-35B’s short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities. Defensetech.org, “The Super Hornet as a Stealth Killer?”  (Downloaded May 7, 2012); Eric Palmer blog, “Define ‘theoretical.’” (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 22] Selected Acquisition Report (SAR): F-35

[ 23] Bad Business

[ 24] 24226 Federal Register Vol. 77, No. 78

[ 25] Department of Defense, “SEC.806 Revision to Definition of Term ‘Commercial Item’ for Purposes of Federal Procurement Statutes Providing Procedures for Procurement of Commercial Items,”  (Hereinafter “SEC.806 Revision to Definition of Term ‘Commercial Item’”)

[ 26] Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Federal Acquisition Report: Volume I, March 2005.  (Downloaded May 14, 2012)

[ 27] “SEC.806 Revision to Definition of Term ‘Commercial Item’”

[ 28] Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), Panel of Contracting Integrity 2010 Report to Congress, January 28, 2011, p. 22.  (Downloaded May 14, 2012)

[ 29] General Services Administration, Acquisition Central, “Chapter 1-Commercial Practices Findings and Recommendations,” Report of the Acquisition Advisory Panel to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the United States Congress, January 2007, p. 31.  (Downloaded May 14, 2012)

[ 30] Representative Mike Coffman, “Amendment to H.R. 4310 Offered by Mr. Coffman of Colorado,” April 20, 2012.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012)

[ 31] Department of Defense, Active Duty Military Personnel by Rank/Grade, March 31, 2012.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012); Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), Appendix C: Selected Reserve Enlisted Gains, Enlisted Force, Officer Gains, and Officer Corps Tables.  (Downloaded May 15, 2012). See Tables C-11 and C-17.

[ 32] Ben Freeman, Project On Government Oversight, “Today’s Military: The Most Top-Heavy Force in U.S. History,” November 29, 2011.

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