Instead of Stressing Accountability, Legislators Offer Pentagon a Blank Check | Citizens Against Government Waste

Instead of Stressing Accountability, Legislators Offer Pentagon a Blank Check

The WasteWatcher

On September 1, 2021, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) voted to substantially exceed President Biden’s requested funding level for the Department of Defense (DOD).  The HASC approved an amendment by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) that added $23.9 billion to the fiscal year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.  This is a remarkably short-sighted policy decision given the size of the DOD’s budget and the Pentagon’s financial disarray.

The amendment provides spending in a variety of areas, including $5.2 billion for research and development, $3.8 billion for military construction and facilities, and $3.7 billion for “emerging technologies.”

Also included is $9.8 billion for weapons acquisition.  Among a host of new aircraft, ships, and vehicles is $234 million for upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank, a program that essentially functions as a jobs program.  Over the objections of senior DOD officials, members of Congress have for many years been earmarking funds for the M1 Abrams upgrade program.  In testimony before the HASC on February 17, 2012, then-Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno told Congress that the U.S. possesses more than enough tanks to meet the country’s needs. 

Congress has routinely failed to listen.  Past versions of the DOD appropriations bill hinted at a parochial incentive for the program’s continuance:  industrial base support.  Although the tank plant is located in Lima, Ohio, its suppliers are spread across the country, which helps to explain its widespread backing.  Since FY 1994, there have been 41 earmarks for the M1 Abrams program, requested by at least 13 members of Congress, costing taxpayers $1.5 billion.

Significantly exceeding the administration’s request sends the wrong message to a fiscally troubled entity.  The DOD remains the sole federal agency that has not undergone a clean audit under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.  The books are so bad that areas within the DOD have been on the Government Accountability Office’s list of programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement since 1995.

Instead of offering a blank check, the HASC should have held the DOD accountable for the many financial irregularities and wasted spending that are revealed on an annual basis.  The adoption of Rep. Rogers’ amendment will do nothing to incentivize the Pentagon to get its fiscal house in order.

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