This week the House will consider a nearly $800 billion spending bill for Department of Defense, legislative branch, military construction, Veterans Affairs, and energy and water appropriations. Included in that bill is a new slush fund created by appropriators for the Department of Defense, called the “National Defense Restoration Fund.” This fund, which includes $18.6 billion in the base budget and $10 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, is available for the Secretary of Defense to use pretty much however he wants. That’s a lot of walking-around money.
Unsurprisingly, fiscal conservatives are calling foul, and supporting a bipartisan effort by Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jason Lewis (R-MN), and Pete Welch (D-VT) to strip the funding from these accounts. A letter led by Taxpayers for Common Sense and signed by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Coalition to Reduce Spending, Concerned Veterans for America, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and Tea Party Nation called the creation of the fund “a further step down the path of fiscal irresponsibility.”
“We strongly believe the Pentagon’s budget should not be shielded from efforts to root out waste and prioritize funding investments,” the groups write.
Defense Secretary Mattis seems to agree. Following a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report that found the US military wasted $28 million on Afghan uniforms, Secretary Mattis issued a memo criticizing the waste of funds. “Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” he wrote.
Creating another slush fund for the Department is a step in the wrong direction and is likely to increase wasteful spending. We hope Congress will show a modicum of fiscal responsibility and strike these new slush funds.