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Horrendous Waste at the Department of Defense

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Horrendous Waste at the Department of Defense


JUNE 27, 2005

National defense is one of the most important and legitimate functions of our federal government, and everyone should appreciate the service performed by those who are or have been in the armed forces. I have always tried to help servicemen and military retirees and have voted for every veterans benefit bill since I have been in Congress.

However, the Department of Defense (DoD) must do a much better job of managing the money it receives from Congress. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that DoD made at least $45 billion worth of improper payments in fiscal year 2004. In January of this year, Stuart Bowen, director of the Office of the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, reported that DoD could not account for $9 billion that was allocated for the war in Iraq.

I have long felt that too much money is being misspent over there. Federal contractors are making exorbitant profits on work in Iraq. As one of many examples, the PBS program "Frontline" reported on June 21 that the company providing food service for the largest military base in Iraq was charging about $20 a plate for providing approximately 105,000 meals a day.

Most Americans are not as shocked and upset by these staggering amounts of waste as they should be. It is not because they do not care. It is because it is not humanly possible to comprehend figures this high.

Now, a recent GAO report found that DoD wasted $2.2 billion worth of supplies in fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is DoD's provider of logistical support to each branch of the armed services. To handle this mission, DLA has an $83 billion inventory consisting of fuel, food, clothing, medical supplies, industrial use items, and spare and repair parts for more than 1,400 weapons systems.

When an armed forces branch, DLA supply depot, or DoD agency has excess or damaged property, it is turned over to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS). DRMS decides if the material should be sold, destroyed, donated to another federal agency, or reutilized by DoD.

During fiscal years 2002 and 2003, DoD disposed of $18.6 billion worth of excess property. This property consisted of all types of items, including office equipment, medical supplies, clothing, and scrap from naval ships.

Of this $18.6 billion, $2.5 billion of the material was in new, unused, or excellent shape, known as "A" condition in the military. DoD policy and federal regulations require that "A" condition items be reutilized, but the GAO report shows that DoD only followed these guidelines for $295 million of its inventory.

The remaining $2.2 billion worth of supplies was transferred, donated, sold, or destroyed. About $1.6 billion of these items was transferred to other federal agencies, donated to states, or sold to the public for pennies on the dollar. The remaining $634 million was destroyed.

First and foremost, mistakes like these have a direct effect on our national security. Not only could these supplies have been reutilized, but some of these items were already in high demand by the military. In fact, GAO found that DoD was selling a power-supply system for a nuclear submarine component at the exact same time the system was on the Pentagon's critical shortage list.

Charlie Cook, one of our Nation's most respected political analysts, once wrote that most people cannot comprehend a figure over $1 billion. He says people become more concerned when they read reports of DoD purchasing $800 hammers and $250 toilet seats. I agree.

This wasted $2.2 billion is made up of thousands of errors made by many DoD employees. For example, on July 30, 2003, DoD sold 172 pairs of brand new cold weather boots valued collectively at more than $23,220 for $69. That is less than the cost of one pair of shoes. Unused biological and chemical weapon-resistant suits, which DoD purchased for $200, sold for $3 apiece.

Also, the $634 million in destroyed "A" condition property consisted of thousands of items, including:

* 34,070 circuit cards valued at $73,666,720;

* 1,604 radio sets valued at $10,247,110;

* 2,390 aircraft parts (rotary wing blades, rotary rudders, windshield panels, fuel tanks, pilot protection armor) valued at $9,119,876;

* 477 power supply units valued at $3,385,580.

To make matters even worse, GAO also found that DoD purchased at least $400 million worth of identical items instead of using excess "A" condition materials. DRMS offices collectively lost $466 million between fiscal years 2002 to 2004, and one DRMS office had an error rate of 47 percent.

The Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations recently held a hearing on this matter. I told my colleagues and those testifying before the Committee that anybody who is not horrified by this waste does not deserve to be called a conservative or a friend of the taxpayer.

There is waste, fraud, and abuse in every federal agency, but DoD is often not put under the same amount of scrutiny as other departments because it is directly responsible for our national security. Some people are afraid to criticize waste, fraud, and abuse within DoD because people might label them as unpatriotic, but I think it is unpatriotic to commit waste, fraud, and abuse with the American taxpayers money.

As I said earlier, I have nothing but appreciation for DoD's mission, but Congress must hold the defense agencies accountable for their mistakes just like every other agency.

There is no question that Congress should continue to provide our troops the items they need to best defend our Nation, but at the same time, DoD has to do a much better job managing the resources it is given.

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