Serious About The Deficit? Cut Defense Waste

Derek Pugh

Washington is agog with fiscal cliff hysteria. With everyone focused on how to reduce deficits, isn’t it time for a little common sense? Most Americans think their tax dollars are wasted in Washington. So why not start with a focus on reducing waste?

That would mean starting with the Pentagon, the largest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.

The Government Accountability Office does an annual report identifying the most inefficient and wasteful bureaucracies. And at the top of their list is the Pentagon.

The GAO “found evidence of duplication, overlap, or fragmentation” within the Pentagon’s endeavors. The Pentagon also “does not prioritize requirements, consider redundancies across proposed programs, or prioritize and analyze capability gaps in a consistent manner.” The GAO believes that close to $250 billion spent annually on the Pentagon’s programs could be streamlined. That would total more than $2 trillion wasted over 10 years. For example, consolidating common functions of the military medical command structure alone would result in savings ranging from $281 million to $400 million annually.

Many of the Pentagon’s programs are experiencing rapid cost overruns in several major weapons systems. In 2011, cost overruns added an extra $135 billion to the already staggering $1.68 trillion long-term acquisition budget. Since 2008, the price for military weapons has risen by an alarming 38 percent.

Apparently, the Pentagon’s philosophy is to spend first and ask questions later. The amount of waste from programs that have not been fully tested or researched is astonishing. For instance, $31.1 billion was lost due to inefficiencies within manufacturing and design processes in just the past year.

The worst part about this is that the Pentagon has not been held accountable for its waste and abuse. The Pentagon has become so big and complex that it can’t be audited, much less pass an audit. In other words, it cannot account for how it spends its money. Another GAO report found that the Pentagon “continues to lack the processes and system capabilities to reliably identify, aggregate and report the full cost of its investment,” which is estimated at over $1 trillion. It is disturbing that the Pentagon has no idea how much money it actually has or where all of the money that it spent went. Yet, the same bureaucracy cries foul when faced with budget cuts.

The huge five-sided money pit has flushed away enough taxpayer dollars. There is no easy answer to America’s looming financial crisis, but there are steps in the right direction. During budget negotiations, we don’t need compromise; we need common sense. If you want to reduce deficits, start by cutting waste and fat, not muscle. Don’t cut benefits for the vulnerable; cut waste in the largest and most costly bureaucracy in the Western world: the U.S. Pentagon.

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