While conservatives and progressives in America may have stark differences on cultural values and the role of government, one thing we all agree on is reducing waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money. So it should not be that surprising that a coalition of right-leaning and left-leaning advocacy groups have agreed to propose $38.6 billion worth of savings out of the budget of the Department of Defense.
The Pentagon is notoriously fiscally irresponsible and, as the US military’s own newspaper Stars and Stripes notes, “[T]he Department of Defense remains the last federal department still unable to conduct a financial audit despite laws passed in the 1990s that require the accounting.”
In theory, DoD should have an audit completed by 2017, but it’s not looking good regarding procurement procedures. In 2013, the first step towards such an audit was made when the Marine Corps submitted an audit. But that audit was withdrawn two years later.
The problems with transparency and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon appear to be a result of both malevolence and incompetence; malevolence due to a revolving door of corruption between DoD and private-sector defense contractors, and incompetence due to the overwhelming size and secrecy of the commitments the US government has put on its armed forces. One wonders if even war planners have a handle on the immensity and scope of the Pentagon’s footprint.
Though the Pentagon itself can not provide solid accounting on what happens to government funds whence received, one control mechanism is not to allot said funds in the first place. Though the annual DoD appropriation runs around $700 billion, cutting $38.6 billion in superfluous spending is perhaps a good first start to eventually getting things under control
The groups, ranging from Win Without War to the National Taxpayers Union, have highlighted eight Pentagon programs that could be reduced or eliminated to find the over $38 billion in savings:
|1. Cancel M1 Tank Upgrades||$558.7 million|
|2. Cancel or Pause the Littoral Combat Ship||$1,598.9 million|
|3. Cancel JLENS||$45.5 million|
|4. Cancel Air Launched Cruise Missile Follow-On (LRSO)||$315.9 million|
|5. Reduce service contracting by 15%,$22,354.5 million||$22,354.5 million|
|6. Cancel the F-35/Buy a mix of F-15E Strike||$4,431 million|
|7. Defense Business Board Moderate Efficiency Savings Scenario||$9,170.3 million|
|8. Cancel or Pause the GBSD||$113.9 million|
The details behind the proposals can be found in the right/left coalitions’ open letter to congress, but I would be remiss to not point out and celebrate the call to cut money from the waking budgetary nightmare known as the F-35 program.
The F-35 is expected to cost roughly $1.5 trillion , despite the plane being unneeded and, so far, unworkable. If there was ever a symbol for wasteful government spending it is the F-35 (though let’s not rule out some fraud and abuse when all is said and done).
Of course, there is another right/left coalition when it comes to defense spending, except it favors more spending and occupies Congress. Often called the military-industrial-(congressional-)complex, this coalition includes members of both parties. Even self-proclaimed democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is a member. The combination of having the ability to dole out jobs for constituents and money for campaigns and post-career riches makes the Pentagon and its defense contractor partners a political juggernaut in DC that few dare oppose.
That being said, calling out $38.6 billion in pointless programs is a good start in trying to bring some kind of fiscal sanity to DoD.