Tag Archives: Government Waste

Military Kills Recruiting Contracts for Hundreds of Immigrant Recruits

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Thirty-seven service members from 22 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on July 4, 2013. (Army/Sgt. Anita VanderMolen)  

“WASHINGTON POST”

“Many of these enlistees have waited years to join a troubled recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship.

U.S. Army recruiters have abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of foreign-born military recruits since last week, upending their lives and potentially exposing many to deportation, according to several affected recruits and former military officials familiar with their situation.

Now recruits and experts say that recruiters are shedding their contracts to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process, which includes extensive background investigations, to focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist and thus satisfy strict recruitment targets.

Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer who led creation of the immigration recruitment program, told The Washington Post that she has received dozens of frantic messages from recruits this week, with many more reporting similar action in Facebook groups. She said hundreds could be affected.

“It’s a dumpster fire ruining people’s lives. The magnitude of incompetence is beyond belief,” she said. “We have a war going on. We need these people.”

The nationwide disruption comes at a time when President Trump navigates a political minefield, working with Democrats on the fate of “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — while continuing to stoke his anti-immigrant base. It was not immediately clear whether Pentagon officials have taken hard-line immigration stances from the White House as a signal to ramp down support for its foreign-born recruitment program.

Stock said a recruiter told her there was pressure from the recruiting command to release foreign-born recruits, with one directive suggesting they had until Sept. 14 to cut them loose without counting against their recruiting targets, an accounting quirk known as “loss forgiveness.”

The recruiter told Stock that the Army Reserve is struggling to meet its numbers before the fiscal year closes Sept. 30 and that canceling on resource-intensive recruits is attractive to some recruiters, she said.

On Friday, the Pentagon denied ordering a mass cancellation of immigrant recruit contracts and said there were no incentives to do so. Officials said that recent directives to recruiters were meant to reiterate that immigrant recruits must be separated within two years of enlistment unless they “opt in” for an additional year.

But some recruits among half a dozen interviewed for this article said they were not approaching that two-year limit when their contracts were canceled, sowing confusion about the reason they were cut loose. The Pentagon declined to address whether messages to recruiters contained language that could have been misinterpreted.

Lola Mamadzhanova, who immigrated to the United States from Kyrgyzstan in 2009, said she heard that Army recruiters in Evanston, Ill., texted immigrant recruits last week asking whether they still wanted to enlist, with an unusual condition: They had 10 minutes to respond. She never received the text message.

“The recruiters did some dirty trick just to get me out so I won’t be trouble anymore,” Mamadzhanova, 27, told The Post on Thursday. Her active-duty contract was canceled Sept. 7, according to a separation document obtained by The Post that said she “declined to enlist.” She later learned the recruiters used a wrong number to text her.

The senior recruiter at Mamadzhanova’s station contacted by The Post declined to comment and called Mamadzhanova seven minutes afterward to reverse previous guidance, saying her unlawful immigration status was the reason she was released. She enlisted in December 2015, which puts her three months outside the two-year limit.

Mamadzhanova was assured by other recruiters that her status would not be an issue and that she would ship for training soon after her immigration status slipped, around her enlistment date. Mamadzhanova, who is fluent in Russian, said the shifting and unclear rules have blindsided her.

“Joining the Army was a dream of mine since America has treated me so well,” she said. She applied for asylum in April, joining other recruits who have sought asylum or fled.

Some anti-immigration sentiment has swirled in the Pentagon for years, former staffers have said, with personnel and security officials from the Obama administration larding the immigrant recruiting process with additional security checks for visa holders already vetted by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

“Immigrant recruits are already screened far more than any other recruits we have,” Naomi Verdugo, a former senior recruiting official for the Army at the Pentagon, told The Post.

“It seems like overkill, but there seems to be a sense that no matter what background check you do, it’s never enough,” she said. Verdugo, along with Stock, helped implement the recruitment program.

One Indian immigrant, a Harvard graduate and early recruit who is now a Special Forces soldier, was called back to undertake the updated security checks, she said.

“Even though you’re in the Army, even though you’re naturalized, these policies say ‘we’re not going to treat you like any other soldier,’” Verdugo said of the concerns over immigrants held by some at the Pentagon.

Internal Pentagon documents obtained by The Post have said the immigrant recruitment program, formally known as the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, was suspended last fall after the clearance process was paralyzed and officials voiced concern over foreign infiltrators, though it remains unclear whether any threats have ever materialized.

Experts say the relatively small number of recruits in the MAVNI program possess skills with outsize value, such as foreign languages highly sought by Special Operations Command. The program has rotated 10,400 troops into the military, mostly the Army, since its inception in 2009.

Although the military says it benefits from these recruits, they can generate a disproportionate amount of work for recruiters who must navigate regulations and shifting policies. The layered security checks can add months or years to the enlistment process, frustrating recruiters who must meet strictly enforced goals by quickly processing recruits.

In a summer memo, the Pentagon listed 2,400 foreign recruits with signed contracts who are drilling in reserve units but have not been naturalized and have not gone to basic training. About 1,600 others are waiting to clear background checks before active duty service, the Pentagon said.

The document acknowledges 1,000 of those troops waited so long that they are no longer in legal status and could be exposed to deportation. That number probably has climbed since the memo was drafted in May or June. Lawmakers have asked Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to intervene on behalf of those recruits.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) filed an amendment in the defense authorization bill Tuesday to retain MAVNI recruits until their lengthy background investigations are finished.

“These brave men & women enlisted & the Administration turns its back on them,” Harris tweeted Friday. “We must pass Sen. Durbin’s & my bill to protect these recruits.”

During July 19 testimony in a lawsuit filed by recruits who said the federal government unlawfully delayed their naturalizations, Justice Department attorney Colin Kisor assured a district court in Washington that recruits would see their contracts canceled only if “derogatory” information was found in extensive background investigations.

Mamadzhanova and others said their screenings, which take months to complete, have begun recently and could not have returned results.

Meanwhile, confusion reigned for recruits in multiple states.

At one office in Illinois, a senior recruiter restored a contract less than two hours after The Post inquired about a case. In Texas, a recruiter did the same 12 minutes after a call seeking to confirm whether a recruit’s contract was canceled.

An immigrant recruit who came to the United States in 2006 and enlisted in Virginia said her contract was canceled Tuesday after she had waited for two years, just as her legal immigration status expired. She asked to opt-in for another year, but her contract was dissolved days later, she said.

Recruiters had assured her, saying her contract was a shield from federal immigration authorities, she said. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

She now fears deportation to her native Indonesia, which strips native-born people of citizenship if they enlist in a foreign military or pledge loyalty to another country, as she has done.

“I feel devastated,” she said. “The Army was my only hope.”

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General Mattis and Special Inspector General Sopko Agree on “Spoils of War”

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Mattis and SIGAR

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“When the head of an agency actually listens to the findings of an Inspector General (IG), great things can happen.

June 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) prompted Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to acknowledge and denounce the Department of Defense’s (DoD) dismissive attitude towards reigning in its overspending of taxpayer dollars, and to highlight the good work done by SIGAR.

The official memo to DoD leadership, dated July 21, discusses SIGAR’s report on camouflage uniform misspending in Afghanistan, while also pointing out and decrying DoD’s “complacent mode of thinking” when it comes to spending in general. Mattis found that SIGAR’s report highlighted two truths about DoD work:

1) Every action contributes to the larger missions of defending the country

2) Procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget

Mattis uses these truths to reinforce the importance of effective spending at DoD, and wants to use SIGAR’s report and the instances of misspending it found as a “catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and take aggressive steps to end waste in [DoD].”

While this is potentially great news and a marked shift in DoD rhetoric, it is important to note that stating a problem exists is not the same as taking concrete action to fix it. Just last year, DoD was working to discredit SIGAR over a report on a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan, rather than working to fix the problem. Moreover, the $28 million in misspending that this most recent SIGAR report focused on and that drew Mattis’s attention is nothing compared to the waste, fraud, and abuse occurring in the larger defense budget (over $300 billion of which was spent on goods and services in 2016). It is important to remember that DoD is not known for its willingness to proactively address its spending issues, but is rather known for actively resisting efforts to increase transparency and accountability. (See, for instance, POGO’s work on DoD’s reluctance to examine its contracts for improper payments & DoD still not being able to pass an audit.)

It will take more than this memo for DoD to change the way it spends taxpayer money, but publically acknowledging the truth of SIGAR’s findings and trying to leverage that work for change—rather than fighting against and resisting the IG at every turn—is an important first step.

It is even more important, however, that DoD truly works towards achieving effective spending on an agency-wide scale.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/07/secdef-mattis-commends-ig-efforts-highlights-dod-shortcomings.html

U.S. Wasted $28 Million on Afghan Uniforms – Color Does Match Terrain

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Afghanistan Uniforms

“MILITARY TIMES”

“The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan selected the dark uniform  without determining whether it was right for Afghanistan.

DoD had purchased more than 1.3 million of these uniforms as of June.


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scolded top defense officials for a “complacent” mode of thinking that allowed $28 million to be wasted on Afghan army uniforms that were inappropriate for fighting in Afghanistan.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction exposed the waste in June when it found that the Pentagon’s decision to procure a dark forest-patterned uniform for the Afghan army was incongruous with the country’s largely desert environment. Moreso, the SIGAR found, DoD bypassed its own digital patterns it owned and contracted a firm whose proprietary rights over the forest pattern significantly increased the cost of the shirt and pants purchases.

Mattis used SIGAR’s findings to highlight what he said he saw as wasteful complacency.

“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential,” Mattis said in his memo, addressed to the under secretaries for acquisition, policy and finance. Those departments head the Afghanistan Resource Oversight Council, a group responsible for decisions on procurement to support the Afghan National Security Forces.

“I highlight this report because it reveals two truths about our line of work. [First] our every action contributes to our larger mission,” Mattis said. Second, “our procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget.”

“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis said.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/07/24/mattis-28-million-wasted-on-afghan-uniforms-must-not-be-seen-as-inconsequential/

 

Government Accountability Office Stings DOD – “Fake Cops” Get $1.2 Million in Real Weapons

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GAO Sting

“WIRED”

“The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency—complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot.

The agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb material from the Defense Department’s 1033 program.

When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

This year, the agency went a little more cowboy and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense. And in less than a week, they got it.

“They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of Ebay.”

In its response to the sting, the Defense Department promised to tighten its verification procedures, including trying to visit the location of law enforcement agencies that apply and making sure agents picking up supplies have valid identification, the GAO report said. The department also promised to do an internal fraud assessment by April 2018.

A Defense Department spokesman declined to comment further.

The sting operation has its roots in the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time, many were surprised to see law enforcement respond to protests with armored trucks, sniper rifles, tear-gas bombs, and other weapons of war.

Reporting by The Marshall Project and others found that much of the equipment came from the obscure 1033 program, which dates back to the Clinton era. Any equipment the US military was not using—including Humvees, grenades, scuba-diving gear, and even marching-band instruments—was available to local cops who could demonstrate a need.

The program has transferred more than $6 billion worth of supplies to more than 8,600 law enforcement agencies since 1991.

After Ferguson, then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the military from giving away some equipment and deeming other equipment “controlled,” establishing strict oversight and training requirements for law enforcement agencies that wanted it. The order also required a Defense Department and Justice Department working group to ensure oversight.

But since President Donald Trump took office, the group has not met, according to the Constitution Project, a legal and policy advocacy organization that had been participating in the meetings. Trump has said that he will revoke Obama’s executive order, although he has not yet.

Congress ordered the GAO to look into the program last year. A survey of local law enforcement did not turn up any instances of outright abuse at the state level, but did find one illegitimate agency that had applied as a federal entity and was approved for equipment, Merritt said.

That’s when the agency launched the sting. Contrary to its public image, GAO has snagged other agencies with undercover work in the past, including an investigation of the Affordable Care Act in which the agency submitted fictitious applications, and got approved, for subsidized healthcare coverage.

In this case, the GAO created the fake law enforcement agency—whose name the GAO would not reveal — and it claimed did high-level security and counterterrorism work. Once approved, the agency easily obtained the items from a Defense Department warehouse of unused military goods.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which lists rescinding Obama’s executive order one of its top priorities for the Trump administration, said the possibility of fraud does not indict the whole program.

“It suggests only that the US military is one of the world’s largest bureaucracies and as such is going to have some lapses in material control,” Pasco said. “Law enforcement is going to get that equipment and we’re going to use it, to protect both officers and civilians. And if we don’t get it free from the military, we’re going to have to buy it with taxpayer dollars.”

But to Madhuri Grewal, senior counsel for the Constitution Project, and other opponents of police militarization, the problem is more fundamental.

“There just aren’t many everyday policing uses for military equipment like this,” Grewal said. “The question is why can real law enforcement agencies get some of this stuff, let alone fake ones?”

https://www.wired.com/story/gao-sting-defense-department-weapons/

 

DoD Is Buying Fewer Commercial Items. Oops!

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DOD Fewer Commercial Items DIUX-poster

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“One constant in the acquisition reform debate of the last two decades ……  “buy more commercial items in a commercial fashion, and do it quickly and cheaply.”

But a report by the Government Accountability Office analyzing a decade of the federal acquisition database finds that Pentagon’s purchase of commercial items has declined since 2007.

Now, nobody argued that you could buy F-35s or ships that way, but as competitors such as China and Russia fielded weapons in double-quick time and software and computer hardware became increasingly important to a weapon’s effectiveness, so did speeding up purchases and lowering their costs grew in importance.

To build bridges with the commercial sector and to ensure the military sped up its adoption of technology advances — especially in software and commercial IT — former Defense Secretary Ash Carter created the the Strategic Capabilities Office and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, fondly known as the DIUX. They were supposed to help accelerate the purchase of commercial technology, bolstered by a raft of legal and policy changes over the last decade.

“The data now supports what was long suspected — that the purchase of commercial items was declining. The question is why? The answer can likely be found in the overreaction to the perceived contracting abuses of of the Iraq War.

“While commercial items and the Iraq War shouldn’t be linked, they became so in the so-called ‘war on profits’ that was initiated early on in the Obama Administration,” Greenwalt argues. “In a typical overreaction applied to a different set of circumstances….the DOD bureaucracy, instead of going after bloated cost-type contracts and move to a more fixed-price, commercial-like, performance-based contracting approach, decided to do the opposite and reign in commercial item contracts where profit margins are traditionally higher.”

Part of the problem appears to be that Pentagon acquisition officials just don’t know much about buying commercially. To cope with that, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) created six Commercial Item Centers of Excellence staffed with engineers and price/cost analysts to advise contracting officers in how to determine what can be bought commercially.

“According to DCMA officials,” the GAO report says, “experts at these centers began reviewing cases in June 2016 and since then have examined 437 cases that contained approximately 2300 items. They recommended that the contracting officer make a determination that an item was commercial in 94 percent of the cases reviewed.”

But Greenwalt isn’t really optimistic, even though he pushed hard to make sure the acquisition community had the policy and legal tools to buy more commercially.

“The linkage between higher profits and higher risks and performance that occurs on commercial item contracts was forgotten in order to keep as many traditional cost-type programs (with somewhat reduced fees) going during a budgetary downturn,” he says. “Congress acted in the last two NDAAs to try and roll back this situation, but since none of the rules to implement new commercial item legislation have been enacted yet, it is doubtful we will see much improvement soon in the statistics.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/dod-is-buying-fewer-yes-fewer-commercial-items-oops/

 

Veterans Administration Has $1 Billion Unexpected Funding Shortfall

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VA Budget Shortfall httpdelmarvapublicradio.net

Image: delmarvapublicradio.net

“THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC”

“Under repeated questioning, VA Secretary David Shulkin acknowledged the department may need emergency funds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was scolded by both parties over its budget Wednesday as lawmakers scurried to find a fix to an unexpected shortfall of more than $1 billion that would threaten medical care for thousands of veterans in the coming months.

“We would like to work with you,” Shulkin told a Senate appropriations panel. “We need to do this quickly.”

At the hearing, lawmakers pressed Shulkin about the department’s financial management after it significantly underestimated costs for its Choice program, which offers veterans federally paid medical care outside the VA. Several questioned Shulkin’s claim that the VA can fill the budget gap simply by shifting funds — without an emergency infusion of new money — without hurting veterans’ care.

“The department’s stewardship of funds is the real issue at hand,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., chair of the Appropriations panel overseeing the VA. He faulted VA for a “precarious situation” requiring a congressional bailout.

Shulkin cited unexpectedly high demand for Choice and defended President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request as adequate, but allowed that more money may be needed.

“On financial projections, we have to do better,” he said. “We do not want to see veterans impacted at all by our inability to manage budgets.”

Shulkin made the surprise revelation last week, urgently asking Congress for help. He said VA needed legal authority to shift money from other VA programs.

His disclosure came just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured that Choice was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over on Aug. 7. Shulkin now says that money will dry up by mid-August. He cited excessive use of Choice beyond its original intent of using private doctors only when veterans must wait more than 30 days for a VA appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Skeptical senators on Wednesday signaled they may need to move forward on a financial bailout.

In a letter Wednesday to the VA, Moran joined three other GOP senators, including John McCain, in demanding more detailed information from VA on what fix is needed.

“Unless Congress appropriates emergency funding to continue the Veterans Choice Program, hundreds of thousands of veterans who now rely on the Choice Card will be sent back to a VA that cannot effectively manage or coordinate their care,” the senators said. “We cannot send our veterans back to the pre-scandal days in which veterans were subjected to unacceptable wait-times.”

VA is already instructing its medical centers to limit the number of veterans sent to private doctors. Some veterans were being sent to Defense Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA.” It also was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs.

Congressional Democrats on VA oversight committees have also sharply criticized the proposed 2018 budget. Shulkin, for instance, says he intends to tap other parts of the VA budget to cover the shortfall, including $620 million in carryover money that had been designated for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The budget proposal also seeks to cover rising costs of Choice in part by reducing disability benefits for thousands of veterans once they reach retirement age, drawing an outcry from major veterans’ organizations who said veterans heavily rely on the payments.

Shulkin has since backed off the plan to reduce disability benefits but has not indicated what other areas may be cut.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Shulkin that it sure sounded like VA needed money.

“You’re defending this budget, but your job is to defend veterans,” she said. “It seems to me if the administration makes the request, it will be better served.”

The VA’s faulty budget estimates were a primary reason that Congress passed legislation in March to extend the Choice program beyond its Aug. 7 expiration date until the money ran out, which VA said would happen early next year. At the bill-signing ceremony with veterans’ groups, Trump said the legislation would ensure veterans will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”

The department is now more closely restricting use of Choice to its 30-day, 40-mile requirements.

The unexpectedly high Choice costs are also raising questions about the amount of money needed in future years as VA seeks to expand the program.

Earlier this month, Shulkin described the outlines of an overhaul, dubbed Veterans CARE, which would replace Choice and its 30-day, 40-mile restrictions to give veterans even wider access to private doctors. He is asking Congress to approve that plan by this fall.”

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2017/06/22/veterans-affairs-facing-1-billion-shortfall-because-unexpected-choice-program-costs/418787001/

 

Army Colonel, Wife and Defense Contractor Accused – $20 Million Bribery and Kickback Scheme

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Gavel and law books

(Photo Credit: BrianAJackson/Getty Images via iStockphoto)

“ARMY TIMES”
“Col. Anthony Roper conspired with his wife and others to seek and accept bribes in exchange for rigging more than $20 million in Army contracts to individuals and companies, prosecutors said Thursday.

The scheme began in 2008 and lasted nearly a decade, prosecutors said.

Roper was stationed at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia. His duties included oversight of the Army’s efforts to build and modernize its information and communication networks, an indictment said.

Roper, 55, is charged with conspiracy, bribery, obstruction and making false statements. He faces up to 85 years in prison if convicted.

The colonel’s wife, Audra Roper, 49, is charged with conspiracy, false statements and obstruction.
Dwayne Oswald Fulton, 58, is charged with conspiracy and obstruction. Fulton was an officer for “a large defense contracting company.” The firm is not named in the court records.

Audra Roper operated Quadar Group, which prosecutors said was a shell company used to funnel bribe payments to her husband, the indictment states. It was one of multiple shell companies used to defraud the government, prosecutors said.

Court records filed this week do not list any attorneys for the defendants.

A spokesman at Fort Gordon did not immediately respond Thursday.”

First-ever Audit At The Department of Defense

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First Ever Audit at the Pentagon

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Department of Defense is preparing for its first-ever audit.

The nation’s most sprawling and expensive bureaucracy and the world’s largest employer—has yet to undergo a formal, legally mandated review of its finances.

[It] has become a preoccupation for members of Congress intent on demonstrating their fiscal prudence even as they appropriate more than $600 billion annually to the Pentagon.

“Like Waiting for Godot,” one Democratic senator, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, quipped about the absent audit at a recent hearing. The lack of formal accountability has left unanswered basic questions about how the military spends taxpayer money, like the precise number of employees and contractors its various branches have hired. Cost overruns have become legendary, none more so than the F-35 fighter-jet program that has drawn the ire of President Trump. And partial reports suggest that the department has misspent or not accounted for anywhere from hundreds of billions to several trillion dollars.

After years of missed deadlines, the mounting political pressure and a renewed commitment from the Trump administration might finally result in an audit. For the first time last year, both major political parties called for auditing the Pentagon in their campaign platforms. That unites everyone from Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus. And last week, Trump’s nominee to serve as comptroller for the Pentagon, David Norquist, testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that he would insist on one whether the department could pass it or not. “It is time to audit the Pentagon,” Norquist told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in his opening statement.

As comptroller for the Homeland Security Department a decade ago, Norquist, the brother of the anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, undertook the first successful audits of that much younger federal agency. The Defense Department is unlikely to meet a statutory deadline to be “audit-ready” by the end of September. But Norquist said he would begin the process even if the Pentagon’s financial statements were not fully in order, and he committed to having the report completed by March 2019.

What has prevented the Pentagon from being examined this way before? The answer lies somewhere “between lethargy and complexity,” said Gordon Adams, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center who was the top budget official for national security in the Clinton White House. “It hasn’t been done ever,” he told me, “partly because it’s incredibly complicated to do and also because there’s not a great, powerful will in the building to do it.”

The complexity of the project dates back to the Civil War, Adams said, when the Army and the Navy set up their own separate accounting systems. The Air Force also went its own way after its creation following World War II, and the military build-ups of the last four decades scrambled the department’s financial records many times over. The explosion of military contractors since 9/11 has made scrubbing the books harder still. Adams estimated that an audit would have to account for 15 million to 20 million contracting transactions each year. The Pentagon has spent several billion dollars over the last seven years just trying to consolidate its accounting systems in preparation for a potential audit.

Despite the ramp-up costs, the project has never risen to be a top priority; the Pentagon has simply been too busy fighting wars. “The military has repeatedly argued that they need to focus on the war effort and accountability can come later,” said Kori Schake, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who previously served in a variety of national-security positions in the government. That excuse carried more weight with lawmakers in the years when the United States had hundreds of thousands of troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, top Republicans like Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, are pressing for an audit with more urgency. “This has been a very public continuing failure for the Department of Defense, in large part due to the failure of senior management to make this a priority for the department and invest the necessary time and will to get it done,” McCain said at the outset of Norquist’s hearing. “This must end with you,” he told the president’s nominee.

Yet those fiscal hawks hoping that the long-awaited report will spur substantial reforms to defense spending are just as likely to be disappointed. An audit by itself won’t dismantle the “military industrial complex” that former President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about, nor will it lead members of Congress to stop fighting to protect the bases and weapons systems that are manufactured in their districts—and the jobs that come with them. Several times in recent years, it has been congressional lobbying that has kept up production of weapons and equipment that the military no longer considers necessary.

“An audit does not raise the big issues,” Adams said. “It doesn’t tell you that we’re not getting the right bang for the buck. It doesn’t tell you anything about whether we’re getting the right forces for the threat. It doesn’t tell you how well the forces perform. It doesn’t tell you where we are wasting capability that we don’t need.”

“What it allows a member of Congress to do,” he continued, “is to look tough on defense and spend a lot on defense at the same time.”

Spending a lot on defense is what the Trump administration wants to do, even as it pledges its support for a Pentagon audit. The White House has asked Congress for a $54 billion increase in the military budget over the next year and secured about $15 billion of that in the recent spending deal. “It’s harder when there’s a big inflow of cash to focus on something like the audit,” said William Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy. “There’s still that incentive to just push the money out the door.”

There’s some hope among audit advocates that the administration’s demand for more money will give congressional spending hawks leverage to insist on progress toward the accounting milestone in exchange for a budget increase. But they also don’t believe leverage should be necessary to demand that a department with a workforce pegged at more than 3 million people commit, at long last, to some basic bookkeeping. “We would never accept the argument that the Department of Education is too big and too complicated to be accountable,” Schake argued. “Why do we accept that for Defense?”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/05/white-house-vows-audit-pentagon-which-would-be-first/137928/?oref=d-channeltop

 

We Need to Audit the Pentagon

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videopentagon575

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“In 1994 Congress passed legislation requiring every federal agency to be auditable.

Since then every agency has complied—except for the Department of Defense.

“We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”

The Department’s… inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty

Increasing Pentagon spending under these circumstances is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. In fact, giving the Pentagon $54 billion and finding out why later is bad budgeting.

Both the Republican and Democratic party platforms included the need to audit the Pentagon, and Congress should resist calls to give more money to an agency they know to be irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

You can learn more about the seemingly endless saga surrounding the Pentagon’s utter failure to get a clean audit opinion here.”

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/defense-budget/2017/pentagon-audit-needed-oversight.html

 

 

 

 

 

Budget Control Act and the Pentagon – The Elephant in the Room

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Image:  Vestedway.com

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”`

“The Elephant in the room is the Budget Control Act [BCA] that imposes strict limits to federal discretionary spending.

Mattis’ budget guidance goes out the window if the BCA is not repealed.

Defense pundits and industry watchers were surprised this week when the Pentagon released extensive new “budget guidance” from Secretary James Mattis that spells out the process for how the Pentagon will justify its upcoming funding request to Congress. The proposed budgets will seek to plug immediate funding holes but also set in motion the military buildup that President Trump promised.

Photo: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon (DEFENSE DEPARTMENT)

“It’s our hope and intent that we can operate in a budget environment outside of sequestration,” said Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. “We’ll continue to work these budget submissions very closely with the Office of Management and Budget.”

Mattis has held private discussions with members of Congress on the issue but Davis would not comment on whether the secretary is confident that the BCA caps will be lifted any time soon.

The restrictions in the Budget Control Act are in effect until fiscal year 2021. “We have not seen any plan to lift or strike the BCA and foresee difficulty getting a major hike through fiscal conservatives and Senate Democrats,” noted industry analyst Roman Schweizer, of Cowen Washington Research Group. “OMB’s budget blueprint is expected this month and the reaction to it will be the first indicators of likelihood.”

It is noteworthy that the Pentagon is putting out documents on its budget “sausage-making” when there are no top-line targets yet from OMB, Schweizer observed.

Davis said Mattis intends to build the budget request from the ground up, based on legitimate needs rather than artificial targets. “We don’t just pick a number and fill it in with capabilities,” he said. “We’ll come up with very real capabilities we need to restore readiness and balance programs. Then we’ll work to get the appropriate price tag for it.”

This will not be a free-for-all, Davis said. “Secretary Mattis has said he wants to be a faithful steward and get maximum value for the taxpayer dollar. That’s what this process is designed to do.”

According to the three-phase plan, the Pentagon will request by March 1 an emergency budget amendment for fiscal year 2017 to fund immediate needs like precision-guided munitions and pilot flying hours. The fiscal year 2018 budget proposal due May 1 would seek longer-term investments to increase the size and capability of U.S. forces. The foundation for the 2019-2023 five-year budget would be a new National Defense Strategy that the Pentagon is now drafting. The Trump administration also has ordered a nuclear posture review and a missile defense review, both of which could add significant new expenditures.

The Pentagon’s budget not only faces huge political and fiscal pressures but also practical constraints such as a narrow window of time on the congressional calendar.

“There is lots to do, and not much time,” said Bloomberg Government analyst Rob Levinson. A deadline to increase the national debt limit looms March 16. Federal funding for fiscal year 2017 runs out April 28, when the current continuing resolution expires and action will be needed to prevent a government shutdown.

There are larger variables at play, too, Levinson said during a Bloomberg webinar. “Trade-off decisions could be affected by changes in relations with Russia,” he said. The Pentagon’s ambitious “third offset” strategy is predicated on the need to counter rising powers like China and Russia. “Trump appears to feel differently about Russia than many in Washington, but is concerned about China, which could steer more money to the Navy and Air Force at the expense of the Army.”

Trump, like every president, will be forced to make tradeoffs between spending plans, tax cuts and deficits, said Levinson. “A most likely outcome is increases — not necessarily equal — for defense and domestic spending with resulting deficit growth. No faction will get everything they want: not the fiscal hawks, defense hawks, Democrats or the president.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2411