“The goal of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) is to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost by seeking to achieve the elusive goal of meaningful Pentagon reform by fostering a fundamentally better informed public.”
“Questions such as the size and nature of the defense budget, especially its many offenses to the American taxpayer, a Congress more inclined to perform real oversight—rather than the pretense, and affordable, effective weapons that service the needs of the men and women in our armed forces—rather than the gluttony of selfish elements of corporations and a dysfunctional political system.
CDI has also sought to probe the origins and costs—human and material—of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere so that such tragedies can be avoided in the future. “
“POGO exposed the fact that the Pentagon was buying $7,600 coffee makers and $435 hammers. [POGO works] with government insiders in order to sound the alarm on wrongdoing by government contractors and workers and to save taxpayer dollars—all on behalf of the public.
[POGO] investigations have found billions of dollars in actual and potential savings. Here are some of the highlights.”
“In a 1999 report, POGO pointed out that if contractors could inflate the price of everyday items like coffee makers and hammers, how much were they overcharging for things taxpayers didn’t understand, like high-tech weapon systems? Our investigations have found billions of dollars in actual and potential savings. Here are some of the highlights.
POGO publicized over $893 billion in improper payments.
The American taxpayers lose hundreds of billions of dollars every year because the federal government makes payments to the wrong people or institutions, or in the wrong amount. For example, the government sometimes sends benefits to individuals who are deceased, or FEMA pays fraudulent claims following disasters like hurricanes. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t do enough to address the problem. In 2016, POGO completed a set of reports that publicized $893 billion in improper payments between FY 2008 and 2015. In our reports, we provided recommendations to identify and recover improper payments that potentially could save the government billions of dollars. Currently, POGO is advocating for a bipartisan bill, the Stopping Improper Payments to Dead People Act. This act would allow the Social Security Administration to share its database of deceased people with many other government agencies to reduce inaccurate payments to dead people.
In 2001, POGO’s reporting causes military to stop two wasteful weapons projects, saving $49 billion.
POGO investigations help get the Deepwater contract cancelled, saving $24 billion.
In 2007, POGO investigated a $24 billion Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman project to update the U.S. Coast Guard’s equipment that resulted in millions of wasted dollars. To save money, the Coast Guard initially allowed the two private contractors to oversee and manage the project. Relying on private contractors to conduct inherently governmental functions ultimately cost the Coast Guard millions, because the contractors made numerous design and technical mistakes. After POGO’s investigation, media attention, and several high-profile disasters, the Coast Guard took back management of the project, and later asked for a $96 million refund.
POGO reporting helps shut down the wasteful Superconducting Super Collider, saving $11 billion.
POGO led the way in campaigning to cancel the Superconducting Super Collider, a grossly over budget project run by contractors that took advantage of weak oversight and permissive spending guidelines to overcharge the federal government. According to invoices obtained by POGO, the principal subcontractor charged the government $21,369 for office plants in a year and $1,107 dollars for Christmas cards, among other waste. POGO’s investigation turned the Super Collider into the largest government project ever cancelled at that time, saving taxpayers roughly $11 billion dollars.
Our investigation into Boston’s “Big Dig” helps save taxpayers roughly $11 billion.
POGO reporting causes Air Force to suspend bad Hamilton Sundstrand contract, saving $664 million.
Every year, POGO warns the government about no-bid contracts fleecing American taxpayers. In 2006, POGO investigators published a previously not-public Department of Defense Inspector General report finding that defense and aviation contractor Hamilton Sundstrand raised the price of several mechanical parts by nearly 900 percent with no reasonable justification. We wrote to Congress showing how contractors were taking advantage of acquisition regulation loopholes to reduce oversight. Our work led the Air Force to suspend the 9-year, $860 million dollar contract, saving taxpayers $664 million dollars.
POGO advocates for bipartisan compromise to reduce contractor compensation, saving $200 million per year.
POGO investigation helps Air Force save $168 million on C-130J military airlift contract.
The C-130J was a mechanically flawed cargo plane that cost more than expected and the Pentagon didn’t want. A 2005 POGO report highlighted that the Air Force dubiously labeled the C-130J a “commercial” item in order to decrease oversight, a decision that ultimately led to many of the C-130J’s problems. After the Pentagon said they didn’t need the plane, a group of influential military contractors and U.S. Senators lobbied hard to preserve the unnecessary aircraft. POGO worked with Senator McCain and other Members of Congress to restructure the C-130J contract and save taxpayers $168 million.
POGO helps publicize $100 million in fraud by Northrop Grumman.
In 2014, POGO investigators made public a Defense Department Inspector General report that found Northrop Grumman knowingly overcharged the federal government around $100 million for an anti-terrorism program. The U.S. Army contracting agency tasked with overseeing the contract was not conducting proper oversight—until whistleblowers, POGO, and the Defense Department Inspector General got involved. We highlighted how Northrop Grumman and its subcontractor DynCorp defrauded the government in multiple ways. They billed the government for more labor hours than there are in a day and for employees who lacked required education qualifications. They also classified one employee for seven different positions including “depot aircraft mechanic, a senior general engineer, an integrated logistics manager, a quality assurance manager, a program manager, a senior pilot, and a senior technical writer.”
POGO’s investigations into waste, fraud, and abuse of power by the federal government are a core part of the organization’s mission.”
“Though it is apparent that we have strayed from our Founders’ vision, we are never far from remedy. It is the right and responsibility of citizens to demand accountability from their government.
Madison helped design a government beholden to the people; it is up to us to use our power. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin at the closing of the Constitutional Convention: We have a republic, if we can keep it.”
“Over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers faced a question: How could they build a democracy to withstand the trials of time and survive the pressures that destroyed those that came before?
Ultimately, the reasoned voice of James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” prevailed. So how is our republic holding up? Would Madison recognize our elected representatives as the guardians against factional governance that he had imagined? The short answer is no.
Madison advocated for a country led by representatives whose “wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country,” and whose “patriotism and love of justice” would moderate the passions and whims of the public. Elected representatives should be above the influence of “factions” — special interests and rival parties — whose interests are often adverse to the common good.
While elected officials rarely show all-encompassing virtue, Madison would observe that, today, many appear to be controlled by the same outside interests that a representative democracy was intended to weaken. Today, our country is one where lobbyists spend $3.36 billion in a year, where the private sector’s sphere of influence in the public sector increases with every spin of the revolving door, and where major donors are rewarded with multi-billion dollar contracts.
Not only has our government been overrun by special interests but it has also been corrupted by partisan conflict. Madison would surely be appalled that, in the face of a foreign adversary’s unprecedented intervention into our elections, the members of the House of Representatives tasked with examining this interference instead dedicated themselves to partisan squabbles — placing partisanship above protecting our democracy.
Gridlock has expanded to an inability to fulfill some of Congress’s most basic constitutional duties. For example, despite many military engagements, Congress has not declared war — an authority granted solely to Congress — in nearly 80 years. Instead, Congress passes vague Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and then looks the other way while the executive branch interprets them as blank checks to wage unofficial wars in perpetuity.
The ability to declare war was not vested in the legislature by accident; the Constitution grants the power “fully and exclusively” to the Congress specifically because the Founders believed that the president would be too inclined toward war.
Madison, who believed that “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” would be incensed to discover that the 2001 AUMF authorizing force against the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks has been used to justify military operations in 14 countries over 16 years. While some members aren’t pleased about this, Congress hasn’t had the will to act. Madison would undoubtedly condemn this shirking of responsibility.
How has our republic found itself in such ill health? Most obviously, Madison would observe that many of our elected officials have been co-opted by moneyed interests and are rarely held to account for their decisions. Representatives now rely on wealthy individuals, corporations and associations — Madison’s dreaded “factions” — to mount successful campaigns for office. Special interests then use their purchased influence to persuade elected representatives to value the good of the faction above that of the public.
But Madison was convinced that because representatives have to win a majority of citizens’ vote in order to be elected, the electorate would serve as a crucible — filtering out “unworthy candidates” in the election process to reveal the deserving. Instead, the voters have become enablers of the mischief that Madison sought to expel. We have given factions carte blanche to propel chosen candidates into perpetual office in districts drawn specifically to support incumbents.
A deep cynicism now pervades the electorate’s attitude about our political process. Our representatives, in the course of campaigning and governing, are frequently predisposed toward special interests and pander to the measly 54 percent of us who vote in general elections (36 percent in midterms, and 28 percent in primaries). Once elected by a minority of the citizenry, members of Congress then have little political incentive to participate in bipartisan compromise.
Though it is apparent that we have strayed from our Founders’ vision, we are never far from remedy. It is the right and responsibility of citizens to demand accountability from their government. Madison helped design a government beholden to the people; it is up to us to use our power. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin at the closing of the Constitutional Convention: We have a republic, if we can keep it.”
“In the 72 days between Election Day last year and the inauguration, federal agencies obtained more than $20 billion in penalties and settlements from dozens of companies accused of defrauding consumers or risking public health and safety.
That’s the key finding of the nonprofit watchdog Good Jobs First, which expanded its Violation Tracker database of corporate misconduct this week. Among the new cases added to Violation Tracker are the flurry of high-dollar settlements announced in the final days of the Obama administration:
Deutsche Bank ($7.2 billion): misleading investors in its sale of residential mortgage-backed securities
Credit Suisse ($5.3 billion): making false and irresponsible representations about residential mortgage-backed securities
Volkswagen ($4.3 billion): conspiracy to cheat US emissions tests
Takata Corporation ($1 billion): fraudulent conduct relating to the sale of defective airbag inflators
Moody’s ($864 million): providing flawed credit ratings for residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations
Western Union ($586 million): failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud
“Given the Trump administration’s focus on deregulation rather than enforcement, the Obama administration’s wave of case resolutions may represent Uncle Sam’s last hurrah against business misconduct for some time,” Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera said in a press release.
Violation Tracker, launched in 2015, now contains 120,000 enforcement actions by 39 federal agencies in cases ranging from accounting fraud, consumer scams, and public health and safety hazards, to false claims, price fixing, and bribery. The database also added whistleblower retaliation cases handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Violation Tracker is a good complement to POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which tracks fewer companies but covers a longer time period and isn’t limited to cases initiated by the federal government.
Good Jobs First maintains other useful corporate and government accountability resources. Its Subsidy Tracker database, about which we’ve blogged before, collects information on local, state, and federal economic development subsidies and other financial assistance to businesses. The organization also compiles corporate “rap sheets” on dozens of the world’s largest and most controversial companies.”
“POGO won five awards for excellence in journalism Tuesday from the Society of Professional Journalists D.C. Chapter. Those included the top prize in the annual Dateline Awards competition, the Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award, for reporting on prosecutorial misconduct at the Department of Justice.
The other awards, including honors for investigative reporting, non-breaking news, and series, were for coverage of Washington’s revolving door and problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Founded in 1981, POGO originally worked to expose outrageously overpriced military spending on items such as a $7,600 coffee maker and a $435 hammer.
Throughout its history, POGO’s work has been applauded by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, federal workers and whistleblowers, other nonprofits, and the media. The Dateline Awards honor journalism from a wide range of media, including newspaper, magazine, broadcast, and online news. POGO’s five awards made it the biggest winner when the 2015 awards were announced at the National Press Club.
The judges chose POGO’s “Department of (In)Justice” package for the Lewis Award from all the entries in all the media divisions, saying it drew the attention of Congress and “stood out head and shoulders above the rest.” The award named Nick Schwellenbach, Adam Zagorin, and David Hilzenrath, the lead journalists on the project. Drawing upon little-noticed public records and data extracted through the Freedom of Information Act, POGO reported that, over a decade, an internal affairs office at the Justice Department had documented hundreds of cases of prosecutorial abuse and other professional misconduct by DOJ attorneys.
The violations included misleading courts and withholding exculpatory evidence from defendants, POGO’s entry explained. However, with few exceptions, the internal affairs office and Justice Department managers kept under wraps all but the sketchiest of information about the violations, POGO reported. When the Justice Department finds that its own lawyers have subverted the judicial process, it routinely shields itself and its prosecutors from public scrutiny and accountability, POGO’s coverage showed.
In a case study, “Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor,” POGO pulled back the curtain on a major internal probe and revealed how, when the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility gathered evidence of inappropriate conduct, its conclusions appeared at odds with its evidence. The case study focused on the Justice Department’s investigation and prosecution of former Alabama Governor Donald Siegelman, who was convicted of corruption in 2006 and sent to prison.
Citing POGO’s work, members of the U.S. Senate have introduced bipartisan legislation to transfer policing of prosecutorial misconduct from OPR, the internal affairs unit, to a watchdog with greater independence. Sponsors of the legislation include the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Department of (In)Justice” also shared the Dateline Award for investigative reporting with another POGO project, “Revolving Doors, Relaxed Ethics,” by Michael Smallberg. “On his first day in office, President Obama pledged to close the revolving door that carries special interests in and out of government,” POGO’s entry said. “But a series of reports by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) revealed that the revolving door has remained wide open, allowing big businesses to hold sway over government policies that affect the health, security, and finances of every American.”
The judges said Smallberg’s work raised important questions “about why the system works as it does, but more importantly what is the damage to the public and public confidence.” “Revolving Doors, Relaxed Ethics” was also honored in the series category (You can read the stories in the series, here, here, here, here and here).
POGO’s reporting on the Department of Veterans Affairs—stories by David Hilzenrath and Lydia Dennett and photographs by Joe Newman—won the prize for non-breaking news. “System Failure” by the Project On Government Oversight documented a pattern of retaliation against VA employees who spoke out about problems and detailed one veteran’s journey through the VA health care system, from medical nightmare to bureaucratic ordeal, spotlighting areas in need of reform.
The coverage drew on hundreds of tips that VA employees and patients submitted to POGO through a web site that POGO and a veterans’ group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, created for that purpose. While POGO was investigating, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a subpoena demanding that POGO turn over information it had received from confidential sources, including their identities.
POGO refused to comply, saying the subpoena violated its rights under the First Amendment. At a time when problems at the VA dominated headlines nationwide, the Dateline Award judges credited POGO with providing a deeper look inside the system. “A real blockbuster story,” they said. POGO’s award-winning staff members reflect the range of backgrounds of the POGO staff.
Zagorin was formerly a reporter for Time Magazine. Hilzenrath, POGO’s editor-in-chief, joined the nonprofit in 2012 from The Washington Post. Schwellenbach was formerly POGO’s director of investigations. Smallberg joined POGO straight out of college and has reported extensively on the revolving door and financial regulation. Dennett is a European History and English Literature major who joined POGO shortly after college and has done extensive research on flaws in federal oversight of foreign lobbyists. This was the second consecutive year that POGO won Dateline Awards. Last year, POGO won prizes for investigative and business journalism.”
Consider passing the following guidance on to your elected representatives. They are “Driving the bus.” The specifics have been developed by The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), who for over 30 years has championed good government reforms as a nonpartisan, independent watchdog.
“The following recommendations will help the country achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical government—one that is truly responsive to the needs of its citizens.
Furthermore, while it is always a goal to have the best possible government at the lowest feasible cost, our troubled economy makes it even more imperative that Congress shrink the cost of government thoughtfully. The place to begin to save billions of taxpayer dollars is to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
The Project On Government Oversight’s Danielle Brian talks about the problems with lax regulations on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists.
Founded in 1981, POGO originally worked to expose outrageously overpriced military spending on items such as a $7,600 coffee maker and a $436 hammer. In 1990, after many successes reforming military spending, including a Pentagon spending freeze at the height of the Cold War, POGO decided to expand its mandate and investigate waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the federal government.
Throughout its history, POGO’s work has been applauded by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, federal workers and whistleblowers, other nonprofits, and the media.
“Gayl’s disclosures resulted in real, positive change. Unfortunately, instead of being praised, he was harshly retaliated against. His punishments included reprimands, suspensions, harassment, personal abuse, denial of bonuses, a lengthy criminal investigation that found no wrongdoing and a rewritten job description that took away the scientific functions he had been hired to do. Eventually, his superiors made it completely impossible for him to do his job by suspending his access to classified materials, placing him on administrative leave and banning him from the Pentagon.
Things started to turn around in 2011, when OSC began investigating Gayl’s case and requested that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) issue a “stay” to the Marines’ plan to put Gayl on indefinite suspension. The MSPB granted the request and the case eventually moved into mediation.
As a result of the mediation, the Marine Corps will create a team that will develop guidelines to help service members and civilian employees understand their whistleblower rights. Gayl is the first publicly announced member of the team.
In addition, the settlement offers Gayl an official commendation for service to the Marine Corps and a guarantee that neither his salary nor job will be downgraded prior to his retirement.
The Project On Government Oversight has been advocating for and supporting Gayl through much of his ordeal. In 2008, POGO urged the Senate to hold the Marine Corps responsible for its treatment of Gayl, and in 2010, POGO sent a letter to Secretary Gates, urging him to end the retaliation against Gayl. POGO also collected signatures from thousands of supporters who demanded that Gayl be reinstated.
“We are extremely proud to have advocated on Mr. Gayl’s behalf over the past seven years and are gratified to see that the Marine Corps and Pentagon have finally recognized his actions, which sped up the delivery of MRAPs and saved thousands of lives,” POGO executive director Danielle Brian said.
More than seven years after he first raised concerns about a lack of safe military vehicles in Iraq—truth telling that got him reprimanded and suspended—Marine science advisor Franz Gayl can finally get back to work. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced today that the Marine Corps and Gayl have settled his whistleblower case through OSC’s mediation program.
Gayl blew the whistle in 2007 because of the Pentagon’s delay in delivering Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an interview with USA Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the delivery of the MRAPs—hastened because of the attention Gayl drew to the issue—saved “thousands and thousands of lives.” According to Gates, MRAPs are 10 times safer than the Humvees that they replaced.
Gayl, a retired Marine Corps major and current civilian employee, also spoke publicly about the flawed whistleblowing system he encountered while speaking out about the delivery delays. According to a press release from the Government Accountability Project, which offered legal counsel for Gayl, the suggestions he and national security whistleblower Robert MacLean made were eventually incorporated into President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 19, which extends protections to whistleblowers with access to classified material.”