We got our start in 1981 as a small Pentagon watchdog—an offshoot of the National Taxpayers Union and funded by a mix of conservative and progressive foundations. With the help of Pentagon insiders and government documents, our small organization brought to light wasteful Pentagon spending, such as $7,600 coffee pots and $435 hammers. Then we began shining the light on the ineffectiveness of larger weapons systems such as the 1982 M1-Abrams tank—about which the Pentagon falsified testing reports and put soldiers at risk.
We realized fairly quickly that waste, fraud, corruption, and abuse of power wasn’t limited to the Pentagon but was a widespread problem across the federal government. So we decided to expand our mission, and have been keeping a watchful eye over the entire federal government for 29 years.
Throughout that time, we’ve continued to grow and add to our programs and staff in order to be even more effective.
In 2006, we launched the Congressional Oversight Initiative (COI) when we realized Congress needed help to become more effective at conducting oversight of the executive branch and to exercise its role in our democracy’s system of checks and balances.
This initiative’s goal isn’t to point fingers when Members of Congress fail to do their part, but to help provide resources, knowledge, and skills that congressional staff need to do their job more effectively.
In 2012 we added the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to our ranks. We are still raising concerns about wasteful Pentagon spending programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but are also now focusing on creating a more effective national security policy that protects our country and the men and women fighting for it rather than one that lines the pockets of defense contractors.
In 2016 the Center for Effective Government (formerly known as OMB Watch) merged with POGO, bringing its expertise in regulatory policy and federal government processes. This expertise bolstered POGO’s role in fighting for a federal government that is transparent and accountable to the American people, not just to the politically powerful industry and other special interest lobbyists and donors.
And in 2017 The Constitution Project (TCP) joined POGO, bringing a whole new range of expertise so we can combat the increasing partisan divide on our constitutional rights and liberties, while also ensuring that our democracy’s system of checks and balances is working properly.