- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
- Holiday cheer: Airline grants Christmas wishes for 250 unsuspecting passengers
- U.S. vet held in North Korea says statement was coerced
Budget hawks may not turn a blind eye to Pentagon
Despite a near-consensus on Capitol Hill on the need to cut spending, about a fifth of the federal budget has been placed entirely off limits: the Defense Department, which is so awash in cash that even its auditors have a tough time telling where all the money is going.
For lawmakers brave enough to broach the topic, the Pentagon, whose spending has gone from $300 billion in 2000 to more than $663 billion in 2010, is an obvious target. The defense budget is the single largest spending item over which Congress has direct annual control, and the department has never complied with federal rules requiring annual audits.
Some fiscal hawks say it is time for a change.
“At a minimum, we need to freeze defense spending until the Pentagon can audit its books,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. “Our military leaders have said our debt is our greatest national security threat. In order to defeat that threat, we have to put everything on the table, including defense spending that, in some cases, does nothing to defend our nation.”
Still, proposals to slice the department’s spending have been few and far between, and the ones that lawmakers have put forward have gained little traction.
In the debate over cutting 2011 spending levels, military spending has basically been AWOL, while the competing 2012 budget blueprints rolled out by President Obama and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, include billions of additional dollars for defense, though at a reduced rate of growth. Lawmakers, meanwhile, are proposing deep cuts to the other federal agencies, which, unlike the Pentagon, conform to the audit guidelines.
Lawmakers and fiscal conservatives say auditors can’t get a clear picture of the Defense Department’s books because it operates on outdated networks and systems that make it impossible to track where the money is going.
“Congress does not know how the Pentagon spends money, and the Pentagon does not know how the Pentagon spends its money,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, a military analyst at the Center for Defense Information who worked on national security issues for 31 years for members of the U.S. Senate. “It is not that DOD annually flunks audits, it is the fact that it can’t be audited.”
He added, “If you flunk an audit, you can track the money and find that it was not spent as intended. If you can’t be audited, you can’t track the money. In other words, it is literally true that it would be a vast improvement if DOD were to flunk an audit.”
In testimony before Congress this year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said his department understands the need to comply with federal standards and is working hard to get its accounting systems up to snuff. Until then, he said, the department will rely on long-held systems “that give me confidence that we know where the money is going.”
“The reality is we do have systems in place to deal with fraud, to deal with other issues and that provide us with the tools do to financial management and budgeting,” he said.
Mr. Gates also has won praise from both major parties for finding $100 billion in savings and $78 billion in cuts to projected spending increases over the next five years.
Despite the proposed savings, however, questions over how the Pentagon spends its money have added a layer of uncertainty to the spending debate.
Last week, lawmakers appeared perplexed after Mr. Gates assured them that the department could absorb the initial $550 million tab from the recent military strikes on Libya and the estimated $40-million-a-month bill from ongoing operations - but he couldn’t tell them where he had found the additional money.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said he was left scratching his head about the source of the funds.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Obama's IRS nominee John Koskinen vows to restore public trust in agency
- Senate confirms Obama judge following filibuster rule change
- Sen. Rand Paul: 'I am seriously thinking about' running for president in 2016
- Sen. Rand Paul pushes 'economic freedom zones' for Detroit
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
Latest Blog Entries
- Senate Conservative Fund backs GOP primary challenger to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts
- GOP rolls out ad targeting Dems over Obamacare
- Club for Growth won't get involved in GOP primary in Texas
- Rep. Steny Hoyer: Details of potential budget deal unknown
- House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer: No extremists on our side of the aisle
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Troops forced to rely on welfare, holiday charity
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
Global economy, the civilizing power of markets and public morals.
News and opinion from a Millennial Urbanite with Southern sensibilities,
Notes from a running nerd: musings and more on all things running.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow