In her first hearing as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill pledged to focus her tenure at the helm of the subcommittee on finding efficiencies and rooting out duplicative programs that can be cut at the Pentagon. Today's hearing was a review of military construction, base closures and environmental programs made as part of the FY2012 Department of Defense budget request. Administration officials from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Office of the Secretary of Defense answered questions about finding efficiencies in military construction.
"As far as I am concerned, however, every hearing that we hold will be an efficiencies hearing. Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the DOD budget has grown by 75 percent over the last decade - and that is the base budget, not including the cost of overseas contingency operations. I do not believe there is anything the Department is doing that we cannot do better, and I do not believe that there is any part of the budget that can be off limits as we look for savings," McCaskill said in her opening statement.
Specifically, she asked questions on construction costs associated with a scheduled move of Marines and Naval facilities from the base in Okinawa to Guam, and whether a re-evaluation would take place in light of the recent earthquake in Japan. She also questioned whether permanent buildings were labeled temporary to avoid the oversight processes associated with permanent military construction projects and focused on finding efficiencies in military construction by drawing on examples at bases in Germany and San Diego.
"I just want to let the word go out that we're going to look very carefully at all of this, because we want our men and women to have the best, particularly in terms of their safety and their ability to achieve their mission and a quality of life for them and their families, but we've got to be really careful about the expenditures and justifying them," McCaskill said.
McCaskill also asked the witnesses to commit to returning money to the Treasury when projects come in under budget rather than repurposing the money for something else:
"The question is should bid savings be allowed to be reprogrammed or should bid savings be allowed to go back to the taxpayers to reduce the overall price tag since the savings belong to the taxpayers," she said.
McCaskill pledged to focus her chairmanship on finding savings and eliminating wasteful spending in the Pentagon's budget without interfering with military readiness. McCaskill, who has fought for an end to the earmark process since arriving in the Senate in 2007, also promised to not allow any earmark requests in legislation that comes before the Subcommittee.