Tag Archives: Project on Governent Overisight

Americans And Our Government Expect And Accept Trillions In Pentagon Waste

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(Illustration: CJ Ostrosky / POGO)

THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO) By Mandy Smithberger

Congress only recently passed and the president approved one of the largest Pentagon budgets ever. It will surpass spending at the peaks of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. 

 This after $2 trillion on war in Afghanistan alone. between $10 million and $43 million spent constructing a single gas station , $150 million for  luxury private villas for Americans. The Pentagon has, by the way, never actually passed an audit.

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“Call it a colossal victory for a Pentagon that hasn’t won a war in this century, but not for the rest of us. Congress only recently passed and the president approved one of the largest Pentagon budgets ever. It will surpass spending at the peaks of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. As last year ended, as if to highlight the strangeness of all this, the Washington Post broke a story about a “confidential trove of government documents” — interviews with key figures involved in the Afghan War by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — revealing the degree to which senior Pentagon leaders and military commanders understood that the war was failing. Yet, year after year, they provided “rosy pronouncements they knew to be false,” while “hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable.”

Given the way the Pentagon has sunk taxpayer dollars into endless wars, in a more reasonable world that institution would be overdue for a comprehensive audit.

However, as the latest Pentagon budget shows, no matter the revelations, there will be no reckoning when it comes to this country’s endless wars or its military establishment — not at a moment when President Donald Trump is sending yet more U.S. military personnel into the Middle East and has picked a new fight with Iran. No less troubling: how few in either party in Congress are willing to hold the president and the Pentagon accountable for runaway defense spending or the poor performance that has gone with it.

Given the way the Pentagon has sunk taxpayer dollars into those endless wars, in a more reasonable world that institution would be overdue for a comprehensive audit of all its programs and a reevaluation of its expenditures. (It has, by the way, never actually passed an audit.) According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, Washington has already spent at least $2 trillion on its war in Afghanistan alone and, as the Post made clear, the corruption, waste, and failure associated with those expenditures was (or at least should have been) mindboggling.

Of course, little of this was news to people who had read the damning reports released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in previous years. They included evidence, for instance, that somewhere between $10 million and $43 million had been spent constructing a single gas station in the middle of nowhere, that $150 million had gone into luxury private villas for Americans who were supposed to be helping strengthen Afghanistan’s economy, and that tens of millions more were wasted on failed programs to improve Afghan industries focused on extracting more of the country’s minerals, oil, and natural gas reserves.

In the face of all this, rather than curtailing Pentagon spending, Congress continued to increase its budget, while also supporting a Department of Defense slush fund for war spending to keep the efforts going. Still, the special inspector general’s reports did manage to rankle American military commanders (unable to find successful combat strategies in Afghanistan) enough to launch what, in effect, would be a public-relations war to try to undermine that watchdog’s findings.Pentagon in the center of a vortex of hundred dollar bills.

Making Sense of the $1.25 Trillion National Security State Budget

Our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion—more than double the Pentagon’s base budget.Read More

All of this, in turn, reflected the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex that President (and former five-star General) Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about in his memorable 1961 farewell address. That complex only continues to thrive and grow almost six decades later, as contractor profits are endlessly prioritized over what might be considered the national security interests of the citizenry.

The infamous “revolving door” that regularly ushers senior Pentagon officials into defense-industry posts and senior defense-industry figures into key positions at the Pentagon (and in the rest of the national security state) just adds to the endless public-relations offensives that accompany this country’s forever wars. After all, the retired generals and other officials the media regularly looks to for expertise are often essentially paid shills for the defense industry. The lack of public disclosure and media discussion about such obvious conflicts of interest only further corrupts public debate on both the wars and the funding of the military, while giving the arms industry the biggest seat at the table when decisions are made on how much to spend on war and preparations for the same.

Media Analysis Brought to You by the Arms Industry

That lack of disclosure regarding potential conflicts of interest recently came into fresh relief as industry boosters beat the media drums for war with Iran. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve seen many times before. Back in 2008, for instance, in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series, the New York Times revealed that the Pentagon had launched a program to cultivate a coterie of retired-military-officers-turned-pundits in support of its already disastrous war in Iraq. Seeing such figures on TV or reading their comments in the press, the public may have assumed that they were just speaking their minds. However, the Times investigation showed that, while widely cited in the media and regularly featured on the TV news, they never disclosed that they received special Pentagon access and that, collectively, they had financial ties to more than 150 Pentagon contractors.

Given such financial interests, it was nearly impossible for them to be “objective” when it came to this country’s failing war in Iraq. After all, they needed to secure more contracts for their defense-industry employers. A subsequent analysis by the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon’s program raised “legitimate questions” about how its public propaganda efforts were tied to the weaponry it bought, highlighting “the possibility of compromised procurements resulting from potential competitive advantages” for those who helped them.

While the program was discontinued that same year, a similar effort was revealed in 2013 during a debate over whether the U.S. should attack Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. You probably won’t be surprised to discover that most of the former military figures and officials used as analysts at the time supported action against Syria. A review of their commentary by the Public Accountability Initiative found a number of them also had undisclosed ties to the arms industry. In fact, of 111 appearances in major media outlets by 22 commentators, only 13 of them disclosed any aspect of their potential conflicts of interest that might lead them to promote war.

The same pattern is now being repeated in the debate over the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate by drone Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and other Iran-related issues. While Soleimani clearly opposed the United States and many of its national security interests, his killing risked pushing Washington into another endless war in the Middle East. And in a distinctly recognizable pattern, the Intercept has already found that the air waves were subsequently flooded by defense-industry pundits praising the strike. Unsurprisingly, news of a potential war also promptly boosted defense industry stocks. Northrop Grumman’s, Raytheon’s, and Lockheed Martin’s all started 2020 with an uptick.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) have offered legislation that could shut down that revolving door between the major weapons makers and Washington for good, but it has met concerted resistance from Pentagon officials and others still in Congress who stand to benefit from preserving the system as is. Even if that revolving door wasn’t shut down, transparency about just who was going through it would help the public better understand what former officials and military commanders are really advocating for when they speak positively of the necessity for yet another war in the Middle East.

Costly Weapons (and Well-Paid Lobbyists)

Here’s what we already know about how it all now works: weapon systems produced by the big defense firms with all those retired generals, former administration officials, and one-time congressional representatives on their boards (or lobbying for or consulting for them behind the scenes) regularly come in overpriced, are often delivered behind schedule, and repeatedly fail to have the capabilities advertised. Take, for instance, the new Ford class aircraft carriers, produced by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the sort of ships that have traditionally been used to show strength globally. In this case, however, the program’s development has been stifled by problems with its weapons elevators and the systems used to launch and recover its aircraft. Those problems have been costly enough to send the price for the first of those carriers soaring to $13.1 billion. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet fighter, the most expensive weapons system in Pentagon history, has an abysmal rate of combat readiness and currently comes in at more than $100 million per aircraft.

Officers Advocating for More F-35s Often Had Financial Stakes

It’s clear that many of those advocating for more F-35s are far from independent and impartial experts.Read More

And yet, somehow, no one ever seems to be responsible for such programmatic failures and prices — certainly not the companies that make them (or all those retired military commanders sitting on their boards or working for them). One crucial reason for this lack of accountability is that key members of Congress serving on committees that should be overseeing such spending are often the top recipients of campaign contributions from the big weapons makers and their allies. And just as at the Pentagon, members of those committees or their staff often later become lobbyists for those very federal contractors.

With this in mind, the big defense firms carefully spread their contracts for weapons production across as many congressional districts as possible. This practice of “political engineering,” a term promoted by former Department of Defense analyst and military reformer Chuck Spinney, helps those contractors and the Pentagon buy off members of Congress from both parties. Take, for example, the Littoral Combat Ship, a vessel meant to operate close to shore. Costs for the program tripled over initial estimates and, according to Defense News, the Navy is already considering decommissioning four of the new ships next year as a cost-saving measure. It’s not the first time that program has been threatened with the budget axe. In the past, however, pork-barrel politics spearheaded by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), in whose states those boats were being built, kept the program afloat.

The Air Force’s new bomber, the B-21, being built by Northrup Grumman, has been on a similar trajectory. Despite significant pressure from then-Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Air Force refused in 2017 to make public or agree upon a contract price for the program. (It was a “cost-plus,” not a “fixed price” contract, after all.) It did, however, release the names of the companies providing components to the program, ensuring that relevant congressional representatives would support it, no matter the predictably spiraling costs to come.

Recent polling indicates that such pork-barrel politics isn’t backed by the public, even when they might benefit from it. Asked whether congressional representatives should use the Pentagon’s budget to generate jobs in their districts, 77% of respondents rejected the notion. Two-thirds favored shifting such funds to sectors like healthcare, infrastructure, and clean energy that would, in fact, create significantly more jobs.

And keep in mind that, in this big-time system of profiteering, hardware costs, however staggering, are just a modest part of the equation. The Pentagon spends about as much on what it calls “services” as it does on the weaponry itself and those service contracts are another major source of profits. For example, it’s estimated that the F-35 program will cost $1.5 trillion over the lifetime of the plane, but a trillion dollars of those costs will be for support and maintenance of the aircraft.

Increasingly, this means contractors are able to hold the Pentagon hostage over a weapon’s lifetime, which means overcharges of just about every imaginable sort, including for labor. The Project On Government Oversight (where I work) has, for instance, been uncovering overcharges in spare parts since our founding, including an infamous $435 hammer back in 1983. I’m sad to report that what, in the 1980s, was a seemingly outrageous $640 plastic toilet-seat cover for military airplanes now costs an eye-popping $10,000. A number of factors help explain such otherwise unimaginable prices, including the way contractors often retain intellectual property rights to many of the systems taxpayers funded to develop, legal loopholes that make it difficult for the government to challenge wild charges, and a system largely beholden to the interests of defense companies.

In for a TransDigm, Out for Billions

While it is easy to blame TransDigm, Congress created the problem, and agencies are placed in the undesirable position of relying on outdated, and often outrageous, prices.Read More

The most recent and notorious case may be TransDigm, a company that has purchased other companies with a monopoly on providing spare parts for a number of weapon systems. That, in turn, gave it power to increase the prices of parts with little fear of losing business — once, receiving 9,400% in excess profits for a single half-inch metal pin. An investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee found that TransDigm’s employees had been coached to resist providing cost or pricing information to the government, lest such overcharges be challenged.

In one case, for instance, a subsidiary of TransDigm resisted providing such information until the government, desperate for parts for weapons to be used in Iraq and Afghanistan, was forced to capitulate or risk putting troops’ lives on the line. TransDigm did later repay the government $16 million for certain overcharges, but only after the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the subject that shamed the company. As it happens, TransDigm’s behavior isn’t an outlier. It’s typical of many defense-related companies doing business with the government — about 20 major industry players, according to a former Pentagon pricing czar.

A Recipe for Disaster

For too long Congress has largely abdicated its responsibilities when it comes to holding the Pentagon accountable. You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the “acquisition reforms” it’s passed in recent years, which affect how the Department of Defense buys goods and services, have placed just about all real negotiating power in the hands of the big defense contractors. To add insult to injury, both parties of Congress continue to vote in near unanimity for increases in the Pentagon budget, despite 18-plus years of losing wars, the never-ending gross mismanagement of weapons programs, and a continued failure to pass a basic audit. If any other federal agency (or the contractors it dealt with) had a similar track record, you can only begin to imagine the hubbub that would ensue. But not the Pentagon. Never the Pentagon.

A significantly reduced budget would undoubtedly increase that institution’s effectiveness by curbing its urge to throw ever more money at problems. Instead, an often bought-and-paid-for Congress continues to enable bad decision-making about what to buy and how to buy it. And let’s face it, a Congress that allows endless wars, terrible spending practices, and multiplying conflicts of interest is, as the history of the twenty-first century has shown us, a recipe for disaster.”

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2020/01/never-the-pentagon/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mandy Smithberger

Mandy Smithberger rejoined POGO as the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in December 2014. Previously she was a national security policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) worked on passing key provisions of the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law, which expands protections by increasing the level of Inspector General review for complaints, requiring timely action on findings of reprisal, and increasing the time whistleblowers have to report reprisals. Previously an investigator with POGO, she was part of a team that received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for contributions in the area of open government.
Ms. Smithberger received her B.A. in government from Smith College and her Masters in Strategic Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. She also served as an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Central Command.

The Tax-Day Impact Of The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)

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POGO and Your Taxes

“POGO”

“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.”

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“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.

In a blistering set of reports sent to the White House in 2001 on the defense weapon acquisition process, POGO exposed how multiple weapon systems wasted taxpayer money and ultimately made us less safe. One example was the Crusader howitzer cannon, which entered into the acquisitions phase before United Defense finished its preliminary design. Our analysis cited a Government Accountability Office report that found the Crusader weighed too much, underwent shortcuts in testing, and was behind schedule. Another example was the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, which suffered from many of the same problems. While military planners designed the helicopter to be inexpensive, the cost quickly ballooned from $12.1 million to $58.9 million a copy as the development cost increased and the testing schedule was delayed.

POGO investigation into F-35 leads to $21 billion to $40 billion in taxpayer savings.

Multiple POGO investigations have found serious problems in the F-35 program. In one report last year, we discovered that the Air Force wanted to leave several older F-35s unfinished because paying to update them would make it harder to buy new fighters. The Air Force bought the F-35s while still designing and testing the aircraft—a decision POGOand the Government Accountability Office have independently labeled as a major driver of increased cost. After POGO published its report, the Air Force decided to stop the plan, preventing between $21 billion and $40 billion in waste.

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.

Even before Boston’s Harbor Tunnel Project, known as the Big Dig, became a national embarrassment, POGO investigated the devastating impact of private contractors spending billions of tax dollars to build a highway project with little federal or state oversight. The Big Dig started with a $2.3 billion budget but, with contractors given a free rein, it ballooned to around $24.3 billion as the project suffered from delays, bad planning, and mismanagement. Initially, federal taxpayers were on the hook for 80% of the funding, but POGO’s investigation helped reduce losses by getting Congress to freeze federal spending at $8.6 billion, saving federal taxpayers roughly $11 billion.

POGO helps cancel the F-22, saving $4.268 billion in one year.

Much like the F-35, the F-22 cost much more than advertised and drained resources from other critical Air Force priorities—like training pilots. Also like the F-35, POGO campaigned heavily to end the program. After almost a decade’s worth of reportspress releases, and conversations with Members of Congress and their staff, POGO finally succeeded in helping get the program shut down—thanks in large part to Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ). Cancelling the production of 240 F-22s saved taxpayers $4.268 billion that year alone.

POGO helps the government collect over $1 billion in additional oil royalties to date.

During the late 1990s, POGO investigators uncovered how the Interior Department ignored the fact that several oil companies chronically underpaid the Federal Treasuryon royalties they owed for oil they extracted from public lands. In 1997, POGO filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against 16 major oil companies. By 2001, the companies settled the lawsuit. The U.S. Treasury recovered nearly half a billion dollars in unpaid royalty revenue, and began collecting $67 million more per year in royalties owed to the public.

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.

Prior to 2013, an outdated law that was used to determine contractor compensation packages allowed some companies to receive excessively high executive salaries and benefits—at the expense of taxpayers. This system allowed contractors to receive more money than comparable employees in the federal government. After years of work by POGO, a bipartisan group of legislators voted to reduce the cap from $952,308 to $487,000, saving taxpayers $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.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/04/pogos-outsized-tax-day-impact.html

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO ) Wins Five Awards for Excellence In Journalism

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“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.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2015/06/pogo-honored-for-coverage-of.html