Tag Archives: Waste

Nature’s (And Our) Struggle With Styrofoam

Image: Ken Larson https://www.flickr.com/photos/odysseyof_armaments/9677781303/in/photostream/



Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and appears to last forever. It’s resistant to photolysis, or the breaking down of materials by photons originating from light.

This, combined with the fact that Styrofoam floats, means that large amounts of polystyrene have accumulated along coastlines and waterways around the world. It is considered a main component of marine debris.

Styrofoam can be recycled, but the market for recycled Styrofoam is diminishing. Many recycling companies no longer will accept polystyrene products. Those that are recycled can be re-manufactured into things like cafeteria trays or packing filler.


Government Legislation Taking Aim at Waste and Fraud


Congress and Waste and Fraud


“The “Payment Integrity Information Act of 2018” would update and strengthen the current laws that require federal agencies to estimate, detect, prevent, and recover payments made in error, or in the wrong amount.

An estimate from fiscal year 2016 showed $144 billion in misspending that year—an all-time high. These improper payments result from insufficient financial accountability, and divert dollars from where they are needed.”


“A major portion of wasteful government spending is a broad category known as “improper payments,” which are payments made in the wrong amount (including both overpayments and underpayments), to the wrong people, or for the wrong reason.

These improper payments result from insufficient financial accountability, and divert dollars from where they are needed. While significant progress by Congress and some federal agencies has been made in curbing improper payments during the past decade, more needs to be done to stop this wasteful and ineffective practice.

Agencies and programs throughout the federal government are the sources of improper payments. For example, the Department of Agriculture noted $218 million in federal crop insurance overpayments in 2016. Also, the Pentagon admitted that, in fiscal year 2016, it made more than $100 million in overpayments to commercial vendors, and more than $400 million in overpayments when reimbursing individuals for travel costs.

Three leading members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the legislation. The bill language was well-vetted by many experts in the inspector general community, the Government Accountability Office, and the Office of Management and Budget. Staff from the Project On Government Oversight also reviewed the language. A House companion bill is under consideration.

Among the key provisions of the Act, the legislation would:

  • Establish more complete understanding of when and why improper payments are made. Agencies should conduct stronger and more consistent reviews of when a program’s spending is at risk for improper payments. For example, payments to federal contractors are rarely given a thorough examination in this light, despite findings from auditors, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office that there are major problems. The Act includes language that requires the federal government to find new methods for estimating and detecting improper payments to contractors.
  • Focus more agency action toward preventing improper payments. The legislation requires agencies to devise and implement a plan, following a clear timeline in order to eliminate known vulnerabilities, rather than simply trying to recover improper payments after detection. This would shift agencies away from what is called “pay and chase.”
  • Provide new nation-wide tools to curb payment errors and fraud. A current federal-wide mechanism to screen federal payments called the “Do Not Pay” program is showing signs of success. However, the system is still missing many improper payments. The bill would give agencies new abilities to catch additional payment errors. For example, state agencies that managed federal benefits programs, such as Unemployment Insurance and Medicaid, would have improved access to the Do Not Pay program.
  • Improve use of data analysis tools to ferret out improper payments. The legislation requires federal agencies to coordinate with each other in developing and using cutting-edge data analysis procedures. Some agencies have seen success with these tools, such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which continues to develop and refine a robust software system to fight Medicare waste and fraud. However, most agencies have not made effective use of data analysis systems.

Congress is already looking at other useful legislative ideas. Earlier this year, a bipartisan coalition of Congressional sponsors introduced legislation tackling the odd-sounding but very real problem of improper payments involving dead people. The Government Accountability Office has chronicled this substantial improper payment problem. The “Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act” (S. 2374/H.R. 4929) would provide all relevant agencies with access to the full death list maintained by the Social Security Administration, while still maintaining strong privacy and security protections for the data. The legislation would also require steps to improve accuracy and completeness of the Social Security Administration’s database of deceased individuals, and improve the way it is used.

The Project On Government Oversight is working with Congress on the problem of improper payments, and in finding solutions that would result in real progress. We will also continue to work with the Administration and Congress on other measures to improve the accuracy and accountability of government spending.”


Why Did the U.S Allow Massive Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Iraq?



 By Ken Larson in Response to a Question  by  Gwydion Madawc Williams on Quora

 Quora Question

Two Major reasons:

1. The motives of the U.S. and International Military Industrial Complexes, USAID and other western USAID counterparts in fostering continued warfare during this period, netting billions in sales of weapons to the war fighters and massive construction and redevelopment dollars for international companies who often operated fraudulently and fostered waste, looting and lack of funds control.

It is common knowledge that many of these corporations spend more each year in lobbying costs than they pay in taxes and pass exorbitant overhead and executive pay cost on to the tax payer in sales, thus financing their operating personnel riches while remaining marginally profitable to their stockholders.

I watched this from the inside of many of these companies for 36 years. Here is my dissertation on that subject. You can read it on line at:

Here is an example of how the lobbying and behind the scenes string pulling worked:

2. The complete lack of cultural understanding between U.S. and Western decision makers and the middle east cultures they were trying to “Assist” by nation building.

The only real understanding that existed during the period was in the person of General Schwarzkopf who spent much of his youth in the Middle East with his father, an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He was fascinated by the Arab culture, commended their respect and like Eisenhower led a coalition during the Gulf War. 

He then astutely recommend no occupation of Iraq, went home and stayed out of government.

Norman, like Ike, knew the power of the MIC and he wanted no part of it.

The U.S Tax payer has funded billions in USAID and construction projects in Iraq and wasted the money due to a lack of cultural understanding, fraud and abuse. POGO documents many:

There is history repeating itself here – much like Vietnam the above two factors are deeply at play with the lack of astute learning in our government as we look back over our shoulder.

We must come to the understanding, like a recent highly respected war veteran and West Point Instructor has, that military victory is dead.


“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.”

Frank Spinney is an expert on the MIC. He spent the same time I did on the inside of the Pentagon while I worked Industry. You may find his interviews informative.

At the risk of pounding my personal perspective drum, I have hope by these remarks are of some assistance to you.

Military Paid $6.8 Million to Pro Sports for “Paid Patriotism” Events


Photo Gary Wiepert AP“MILITARY TIMES”

“Pentagon officials paid at least $6.8 million over the last three years to professional sports teams for “paid patriotism” events like on-field color guards and “free” seats for troops.

The findings include 50 professional sports teams and questionable expenses in about two-thirds of the $10 million-plus total the military spent on professional sports marketing efforts since the start of fiscal 2012.

Among the events included in the final report:

  • $88,500 to pay for military-themed rally towels and hats at a Baltimore Ravens game;
  • $49,000 to sponsor the singing of “God Bless America” at Sunday Milwaukee Brewers games;
  • $5,000 for two on-court enlistment ceremonies and to pay team staff to “throw out” Air Force T-shirts at a Dallas Mavericks game;
  • $1,509 to provide pregame recognition of “five high ranking Air Force officers” at a Los Angeles Galaxy game;

pro sports

In total, the findings include 50 professional sports teams and questionable expenses in about two-thirds of the $10 million-plus total the military spent on professional sports marketing efforts since the start of fiscal 2012.

But McCain and Flake said in many cases owners and management were not aware of the arrangements.

Instead, they blasted defense officials for wasting money on the events and confusing the public on which events were paid advertisements and which were sincere appreciation of military efforts.

However, McCain added that “it would be entirely appropriate for these sports teams that were awarded taxpayer money to donate that to a worthy cause, causes like wounded warriors or others specific to the men and women serving our nation.”

McCain said he did not expect to hold any oversight hearings on the issue. The Defense Department has already promised to end the practice, and the National Football League has promised a full review of its policies and participation in the marketing programs.”


How the Pentagon Lost Track of $45 Billion



“Recently, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction asked the military to account for all that spending. It couldn’t. According to a new report from SIGAR, the Pentagon only knows how it spent a third of its reconstruction budget.

In Feb. 2013, SIGAR began to audit all the cash the U.S. military and other agencies were spending in Afghanistan. The watchdog wanted records about grants, contracts and any other agreement where money changed hands.

Two months later, the Pentagon delivered a report that accounted for a little more than $23 billion out of $66 billion. SIGAR was confused. “Obligations for the Afghan Security Forces alone totaled $44 billion,” SIGAR wrote in a March 2014 followup letter to then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The letter, obtained by War Is Boring, explained that SIGAR can’t do its job — detect waste, fraud and abuse — if it doesn’t have all the information.

“We have attempted to reconcile the identified discrepancy in the data provided and have been unsuccessful in accounting for this sizable gap with [the Pentagon],” SIGAR added in the letter.

Then the watchdog asked for the records — all the records  — a second time. But the Pentagon didn’t provide the information, and argued that pulling records for the unaccounted $45 billion wasn’t feasible.

“Identifying all of the contract data for obligated [security forces] is … hindered by an inability before July 2010 to connect information in contract data systems with accounting information that could connect contracts with the budget account that funded the contract,” the Pentagon wrote to SIGAR in a July 2014 response letter.

Money for the security forces made up $57 billion of the total, but the Pentagon can only account for a little more than $17 billion.”

View at Medium.com

Secrecy Exposes Government to Shady Dealings




“Certainly, false statements and fraud occur on all types of federal contracts, but agencies such as NSA that operate in the dark and in compartmentalized environments create an accountability vacuum.

While NSA’s budget isn’t released publicly, the Director of National Intelligence recently disclosed that $53.9 billion was requested for fiscal year 2016 for all national intelligence programs. the Defense Department (DoD) Inspector General (IG) published a report in 2012 entitled Pervasive Labor Mischarging by Contract Employees of the NSA

“The IG report highlighted three overbilling cases from 2010 to 2012, including charging “thousands of hours of labor, when the personnel alleged to be performing work were never present at the NSA facility.” The result for the contractor employees was criminal punishment, including home detention and fines.

The National Security Agency (NSA) operates in the dark—little is known about its operations and programs. Edward Snowden changed that to some degree, but there is more to NSA than bulk international and domestic surveillance operations.

Oversight and accountability are challenged because intelligence personnel have minimal whistleblower protections, or in the case of contractors, no protections at all, and there are genuine fears of retribution and loss of a security clearance. Those factors are further compounded by the lack of transparency in intelligence contract spending and contractors that don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

It seems that the feeling might be mutual. In the case of the three prosecutions that were the subject of the DoD IG’s investigation, the government bought into the “one bad apple” excuse and decided not to punish the companies involved, a real who’s who of federal contracting: Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, Northrup Grumman, and SRA International.

The Baltimore Sun has reported other cases of NSA employees and contractors who scammed the agency in recent years. Instances of bribery, inflated time sheets, and steering contracts to relatives have resulted in the prosecution of 11 individuals since 2007.

Overseers in Congress have been asking hard questions about intel contracting for years, focusing on the cost of contractors and the type of work they are performing as well as whether the government has the right intel workforce balance. Last year, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing at which then-Chairman Thomas Carper (D-Delaware) expressed concerns with the overreliance on contractors in the intelligence community.

Carper’s concerns are real. Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified that the civilian intelligence community’s use of contractors created risks for the government, including contract management problems, and restated concerns about the use and cost of intelligence contractors.

As the GAO report highlighted, it is difficult to provide a general assessment of intelligence contracting. The best data that has been made publicly available is from a mid-2000s inventory of intelligence contractor personnel, which documented that the intelligence budget was roughly $42 billion. Approximately 70 percent of the intel budget was spent on contracts (not contractors) and contractors comprised approximately 28 percent of the total intelligence workforce. Outsourcing intelligence functions was largely the result of the downsizing of the federal workforce in the 1990s and the subsequent surge in national security demands after 9/11.

There is no doubt that contractors play an important role in the intelligence community, but with secrecy comes increased vulnerability to corrupt practices. Let’s hope the NSA and other intel agencies know as much about the contractor workforce as they do about the people who they surveil.”




                                                                        Records Backlog at a VA Center
In September of 2012 this site published an article on the VA and its efforts to improve services to veterans as well as support small business. It was noted from personal experience that excellent care was being received by those in the system but that there was a growing backlog of cases and lack of an effective process to support getting a faster rate of entrance by those returning from the battlefield.
Also noted were disturbing trends in outlandishly expensive conferences and ridiculous video productions, wasting funds earmarked for veteran care. Red flags were going up in the Inspector General office regarding mismanagement of small business set aside programs as well.
Much as occurred since September of 2012.
Last month (January 2015) I visited the VA in Minneapolis for a blood analysis in connection with my annual physical. I marveled at the hundreds of personnel who were going through the blood draw process at 8AM that morning. Polite technicians handled everyone carefully and courteously. My test results were on my doctor’s computer for my 11 AM appointment that day.
In 2012 I used the VA hospital courtesy center computers for veterans, finding them hopelessly out of date, security-bound and barely functioning. During my January 2015 visit I found beautifully functioning high speed computers and a courteous attendant serving many veterans at the the center
On my most recent visit I also went to the department that handles I.D. Cards and applied for a new one, having been informed my card was out of date. I was attended by a sharp technician who checked my credentials, transferred by data, took my picture and processed my application inside of 20 minutes and I was behind several others.
We who are in the system are still receiving fine service. 
But the massive number of returning veterans has strained the VA Health Care System to the point where the Department Secretary has been fired. A corporate executive from outside the system has been placed in charge. The department has been massively reorganized into 5 regions across the country to deal with a scandalous scenario of wait times and neglect in services for incoming veterans.
We forecast the above situation.  It is principally due to the fact that the 5 armed forces medical records systems are not connected to the VA Health Care System and the government contractors who have attempted to develop a system to connect them have failed miserably. 

“Next Gov”

Defense and VA Scrap New Electronic Health Record after estimated costs ballooned to $28 billion. By Congress’ count, the doomed effort – a result of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act – already cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. “

Congress is focusing on firing personnel as a remedy. In our view that is symptom-like remedy, not a solution.
We now have a corporate bureaucrat in charge of the department who is running it like a corporation, reorganizing and establishing a 5-headed bureau under him. There will no doubt be 5 separate fiefdoms to manage. Who knows what will happen to requirements for IT as existing IT system designs get split 5 ways?
Government contracting services companies are continuing to have a field day, growing rich and failing in the classic fashion we saw with the Obama Care roll out.  Success is not a money-making proposition for these firms.  They get their monthly bills paid as they march hundreds of service workers into government buildings to catch the latest whim of the civil service program managers as they change specifications depending on which way the wind is blowing in the massive bureaucracy.
We believe those who are lucky enough to have entered the system will continue to received good care.

We pity those younger or seasoned injured and ill who are knocking on the door and waiting to get in.

A Road Map of SPECIFICS to Reduce the Risk of Tyranny in US Government


Watchdogwire                                                                   Image:  “Watchdogwire”

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.

Our recommendations focus on 13 critical areas that we think need Congress’ immediate attention:

  • Shining a light on the influence of the revolving door between government and the industries that it regulates.
  • Making Inspectors General more independent and accountable.
  • Strengthening whistleblower protections for federal employees and contractors.
  • Expanding incentives and protections for private sector whistleblowers.
  • Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Modernizing the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Increasing transparency and oversight on the legal interpretations issued by the Office of Legal Counsel.
  • Stopping wasteful national security spending.
  • Enacting pro-taxpayer contracting reforms.
  • Tackling military acquisition reform.
  • Opening the Senate markup process of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the public.
  • Ensuring taxpayers get a fair return on publicly owned natural resources.
  • Addressing problems and loopholes in the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Read the full report.












                                                   Image: “9Buzzdotcom”

Pentagon Tells Congress to Stop Buying Equipment it Doesn’t Need


Endless war “MILITARY DOT COM”

“Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. – ‘When [President] Eisenhower said ‘beware of the military industrial complex,’ man he knew what he was talking about … We force stuff on you all that we know you don’t want.’

Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno agreed with Manchin. “We are still having to procure systems we don’t need,” Odierno said, adding that the Army spends “hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that we simply don’t have the structure for anymore.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he wants the U.S. Military’s service chiefs to have more power to prevent the Pentagon from buying weapons it doesn’t need. Sen. John McCain, SASC’s new chairman in the new Republican-run Senate, said one his top priorities for this session is to ensure that the service chiefs have more input into the acquisition and procurement process.

For three years, the Army in numerous Congressional hearings has pushed a plan that essentially would have suspended tank building and upgrades in the U.S. for the first time since World War II. The Army suggested that production lines could be kept open through foreign sales. Each time, Congress has pushed back. In December, Congress won again in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 that funded $120 million for Abrams tank upgrades.

The Army and the Marine Corps currently have about 9,000 Abrams tanks in their inventories. The tank debate between the Army and Congress goes back to 2012 when Odierno testified that the Army doesn’t need more tanks. Odierno lost then too. Congress voted for another $183 million for tanks despite Odierno’s argument that the Army was seeking to become a lighter force.

“When we are talking about tight budgets a couple of hundred million dollars is a lot of money,” Odierno said. “There are lots of people that have looked at procurement reform. And the one thing that has been frustrating to me is as the chief of staff of the Army is how little authority and responsibility that I have in the procurement process. I have a say in requirements, to some extent, but I have very little say.”

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, said that there needs to be clarity on the chain of command when it comes to procurement. “There are too many people involved in the process,” Greenert said. “If I say ‘I need a thing’ … there are a whole lot of people telling us ‘no, this is what you really need.'” In many cases, the technology is not mature and even essential programs become delayed and end up costing more than they should, Greenert said.

If it won’t be ready on time, it becomes too expensive. “Cost and schedule need to become a much bigger factor in this process than it is today,” Greenert said.

Manchin told the chiefs he is “really interested in finding out how many ideas come from you all and what you need vs. from those on the outside and what they think you need.”


Federal Procurement Culture Impedes Innovation




“Innovation is the word of the day,” and yet the bulk of the federal acquisition community has neither the incentives nor the skills to change the status quo and attract innovative vendors, says Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. 

When buying technology products and services, government buyers worry about regulatory issues and price more than anything else, he says. “Industry continues to view the use of LPTA [lowest price technically acceptable] as one of the most significant challenges to offering innovation and top quality.

Soloway says demographic trends portend future changes that could eventually reshape government procurement. “A new generation of acquisition professionals will be entering the federal workforce in the next five years. That creates an enormous opportunity to change the culture.”

Signs of technology malaise can be seen across the federal government. The Pentagon has warned that it is losing its military technological superiority as other countries rush to develop advanced conventional and cyber weapons to counter U.S. armaments and satellites. The U.S. intelligence community worries that technologies it used to own almost exclusively — like high-resolution satellite imagery, encryption and biometrics — are progressing far more rapidly in the civilian world.

These appear to be symptoms of a widespread ailment that affects government contracting, say procurement experts. “Agency acquisition professionals are not focused on innovation,” says a new report by the
 consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP and the Professional Services Council, a trade group that represents government contractors.

The report is based on a survey of 51 acquisition executives. Asked to rank issues based on their importance, innovation placed low. It was rated as the fifth of six objectives of a “sound acquisition process” even though senior administration officials have been emphatic about the need for agencies to become more innovative.
Poor communication between government buyers and vendors also hurts innovation, notes PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel Alan Chvotkin.
“While survey respondents indicated they had seen some improvement in communication and collaboration with industry, this issue remains a prominent concern,” says the survey. “This lack of communication and collaboration (both within government and between government and the private sector) has been a consistent and prominent problem.”Executives also blame Congress for creating a “punitive environment that leads to risk aversion in the acquisition workforce.” Managers should be “encouraged and empowered to think and decide rather than check a box to avoid a mountain of congressional attention for the tiniest of errors.” The survey reveals a “clear concern about the increasing politicization of acquisition over the last decade [as one of the] key causes of the risk aversion, lack of collaboration, and general fear that often permeate the acquisition environment.”

Similar conclusions are found in another study by the consulting firm Accenture and the Government Business Council. The pool of 334 respondents included GS-11 through senior executive service levels in at least 30 different civilian and defense agencies. “There is room for increased support for innovation, especially at the leadership level,” the Accenture/GBC study says. “Federal agencies are constantly driven by the need to reduce costs, which 46 percent of respondents identify as a goal of innovation.”

Tom Greiner, managing director of Accenture’s federal technology business, says there are numerous cultural and institutional barriers to innovation. Sixty percent of respondents say that a lack of management support deters them from adopting new ideas. In the private sector, by contrast, failure is expected. In venture capital funds, the expectation is that only one of 10 ideas they invest in will return 1,000 percent or more, Greiner says in an interview.

In most agencies, innovation is largely unstructured and unsupervised, he says. The government’s emphasis on following procedure may stifle creative efforts.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox notes that innovation does not happen by decree. “It slips on us,” she tells an industry conference last fall. When she worked at the Pentagon’s program evaluation office under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Fox was asked to investigate how investments in research and development ultimately materialized as useful weapons for the military. “We found over a lot of very important programs like stealth and precision munitions that they were rarely recognized at the beginning” as disruptive innovations. “We need to be willing to assume some risks … and make an environment that lets that happen.”

Spurring innovation at the Defense Department is a major concern of Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. In his latest policy directive to procurement managers, titled “Better Buying Power 3.0,” he calls on the Pentagon’s acquisition workforce to engage new vendors and think in nontraditional ways.

The Professional Services Council’s report suggests agencies like the Defense Department need to retrain their buyers if they truly want to change the system. “Survey respondents have shifted their focus to the workforce’s lack of key skills,” says the report. “Gaps in negotiating skills, business acumen and the ability to acquire complex IT have been prominently identified in each of the last two successive surveys. … The general view of federal acquisition leaders is that the workforce remains an issue of real concern.”

The message heard from the Defense Department is that “workforce improvements are not showing up despite substantial budgets for training,” says Soloway. “We are not training our acquisition workforce for the fight they have to wage,” he adds. Critical skills like negotiating contracts with commercial vendors that develop cutting-edge technology are not emphasized in training programs.

“The acquisition workforce is increasingly buffeted between policy prescriptions and on-the-ground expectations,” the survey says. “Immediate budget pressures often drive less than optimal buying behaviors. The workforce is told to pursue innovation but too often lacks the tools and institutional support to do so. While administration and agency leaders have stressed the importance of innovation and reducing barriers to entry into the government market, these objectives are not seen as top priorities by those responsible for executing acquisitions.”