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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I want to spend a few minutes talking about the bill we are going to vote on this afternoon. I am starting my 10th year in the Senate. During that period of time, my No. 1 goal in coming to the Senate was to try to right our financial ship and almost everything I have done in the Senate has been related to the fiscal consequences of our dereliction of duty as Members of Congress--of both parties. There is nothing partisan about that statement. We have seen different Presidents and different parties control both bodies, always to the same result.

We have before us a bill today that is a purported compromise. I want to describe who it is a compromise for. It is a compromise for the politicians. It is not a compromise for the American people because what it does is increase spending and increase taxes. The net effect, even if you take all the budget gimmicks that are in this bill that are not actual savings, and even if you believe people 10 and 11 years from now will actually hold true to what this bill pretends to have us do, which is what we are not doing--something we did 2 years ago through this bill, we are still going to spend more money than we would have and we are going to charge people revenues, some $24 billion--$28 billion, pardon me--increased revenues which we are not calling tax increases but Americans are going to pay that so it is money that is going to come out of their pocket.

What we have before us is a bill that is a political compromise for the parties in Washington to keep us from doing what we really need to do--the hard things. I am going to go through some criticisms of this bill. It is not meant to reflect on any one individual. It will apply just as much to the Republicans as it does to the Democrats. But we have a bill that supposedly fixes things until past the next election so we do not have to face these gigantic problems of ``deadlock.''

The other thing I would note as I go through this is it is my contention we do not have a problem getting along. It is my contention we get along way too well. We get along way too well; otherwise, we would not have a $17.7 trillion debt. We would not have $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And we would not have debt per American in this country which is now $57,000 per person and unfunded liabilities that are over $1 million per household, not including that debt repayment.

How did we do that? We had to agree to do that. Both parties had to agree to do that. The President had to sign it. My contention is we get along way too well, when it comes to ruining the financial future of our country. My main criticism--I do not criticize compromise, I criticize compromise that ignores the facts of our financial situation.

I want to make a point. I put a book out yesterday. It is called the ``Yearly Wastebook.'' I do it every year. I do it somewhat in jest but to make a very real point. I outlined over $31 billion, what I think and I think most Democrats would agree and that the American public, 95 percent of them, would agree with this--that when running a $700 billion deficit, maybe we should not be spending these moneys on these things which go far further in actually solving our problems for compromise in terms of creating a solution to the long-term problems and giving the American people what they want.

We really do have a 6-percent approval rating, right? That is true. I think we have earned it. This bill, I believe, proves it because we did exactly the opposite of what the American people would like to see us do. We solved our problem as politicians but we made their problem worse. We did not fix the things that are obvious to fix.

I was on the Simpson-Bowles Commission, I was a member of the Gang of 6, I have worked in a bipartisan fashion with anybody who will work with me to try to solve the big problems in front of our country, except we as a body, and the House, really don't want to solve them because the thing put at risk when you really solve them is political careers, and as a group of politicians, the people in Washington care much more about their careers--by their actions it is proven--than they do about the long-term fiscal health of this country. That applies to both parties.

So when we have a deal brought before us that will avoid confrontation come January 15 and we have all sorts of budget gimmicks in it that are not truthful, they are not real, in the hopes that somebody will grow a backbone 9 and 10 years from now and actually keep their word to the American public--and we are demonstrating right now we can't even keep our word from 2 years ago--why would we be proud to vote for that? Does it solve a real problem? No. It puts a real problem off and actually makes the problem worse to the tune of $68 billion. Through this bill we will borrow an additional $68 billion, $50 billion of it, close to, in the next year and $20 billion some after that, and in the year after, and then hope and pray that Congresses that follow us will do what we suggested.

Everyone in this body knows that is not going to happen. So when you vote on this bill you are voting for your political career, you are voting for the Washington establishment, but you are not voting for the person out there who now has a $57,000 debt they are servicing, and their family, $1 million per household in this country in unfunded liabilities.

It will pass. I have no doubt it will pass. I feel like John the Baptist in the wilderness. But mark my words. If we continue to do what we are doing today, we will be remembered as the people who could have fixed the problem and didn't; who could have made the courageous decisions and chose not to; who could have stiffened their spines and said we don't care what Republican extremists or liberal extremists say, the future of our country is more important than any political career in this town. And what we have before us is just the opposite.

Why wasn't in part of this agreement some of the $250 billion that GAO has identified as waste, fraud, duplication, and mismanagement? There is not one thing in this bill that addresses one thing that GAO has recommended to Congress over the last 3 years--not one. So we have the ``Wastebook''--$31 billion of what I would consider--and it is not partisan. There could be a difference in terms of agreement about what is important and what is not. But, again, I would say in terms of the ``Wastebook,'' it is: Should we be spending money now when we are borrowing money, in light of the fiscal situation that we have, on some of the things that we outlined? It is a listing of 100. It has $31 billion worth of savings. I will outline a few of them for you.

We are going to be taking up NDAA next. None of the amendments that I offered are in the NDAA. Every one of them was structural to the Pentagon to make it more responsible and accountable to its constitutional duty, which it has not performed, of giving account to Congress on how it spent its money. For example, the Army commissioned a contract to have a warfare overseeing blimp. They spent $297 million on that blimp. It flew for a short period of time in this country. We sold it back to the contractor for $300,000.

I have two questions: No. 1. Whoever signed that contract and made that decision, did they get fired from the Federal Government? Did they get demoted in rank? And, No. 2, was the contract actually executed to the requirements that the military set out for it?

It is called accountability. The answer to both of those is no. There is no accountability. So we are going to have an NDAA bill come through that requires them to meet an audit. They have been required since 1992 to meet an audit. They did not do it in 2014 and they will not do it in 2017 and they won't do it in 2018, because there is no hammer on the Pentagon to make them do it. That is because all hammers have been taken out because we don't want to force them to meet their constitutional responsibility. It is too hard.

We never told them it was too hard to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. But it is too hard for them to follow their constitutional duty to report on how they spend their money. What I would put before us is, if you cannot measure what you are doing, you cannot manage what you are doing. What is obvious from the waste, fraud, and abuse, contract failures within the Pentagon, is they have no clue on what they are doing. All you have to do is take the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier, the littoral combat ships, the F-35--all of those major defense programs are at risk, over budget, behind schedule. I am not talking a little bit over budget. We did not do the oversight; we have not forced that. You will never get control of those programs until you make them be able to account for what they are doing.

My first training, my first degree, is in accounting. I understand the reason accounting is important is because it tells you where to go to manage your problems. The Pentagon cannot do that. The Pentagon ordered--at the insistence of us, by the way--some airplanes for Afghanistan. Guess what we have done. We have taken delivery here and we have sent them straight to the Arizona desert, just $422 million worth of them. By the way, the ones that did go to Afghanistan, we are going to cut up, destroy. We are not going to send them to Africa for relief missions. We are not going to send them somewhere else. We are going to cut them into pieces, another $200 million worth of airplanes. And by the way, since the Afghan Air Force wants the same thing America has, we have already given them two C130-Hs, and we are going to give them two more. That is another $400 million. So what we have done through poor management is waste over $700 million on one item.

There is nothing in this bill that corrects that. Yet this bill is going to come to the floor--the NDAA--and not one of us who actually knows what really needs to be done in terms of changing the financial picture in the Pentagon is going to have an opportunity to influence that bill--not one of us. It doesn't have to be that way. That bill came out of committee in May of last year, but we have chosen to operate that way.

Camp Leatherneck, which is in Afghanistan, is a $34 million new camp for troops, and it sits abandoned today. It has never been occupied. Who was the general or colonel who authorized that in anticipation of our drawdown? Who executed the order to build it and then ordered that we abandon it? Is there any accountability in the Pentagon or in any other agency? Are we doing our job of holding them accountable?

The ``Wastebook'' is not all about the Defense Department, but I brought a couple of those up just so we could see what is going on. The ``Wastebook'' is about poor judgment across all the agencies. You may disagree with me about some of what is in the ``Wastebook,'' but the question you have to ask yourself is: At a time when we have done what we have done to the American people in terms of unfunded liabilities, in terms of individual debt--the average family now has over $220,000 worth of debt that they have to pay back which we borrowed--should we spend money the way we spend it?

We spent $978,000 to study romance novels. Certainly that is a priority right now in our government. Everybody would agree with that; right? Sure they would. They would agree with it. Yet we put that contract out last year and spent money to study the background of romance novels, both on the Web and off, and why people write them. We didn't just study about them here, we studied about them everywhere.

How about $400,000 to Yale University, by the National Science Foundation, to actually study whether people who align with the tea party have the cognitive capability in terms of science? Guess what. We spent that money and the professor got the biggest surprise of his life. Here is what the study said: People who are aligned with the tea party have far exceptional cognitive abilities when it comes to science, math, and financial aptitude. It totally surprised the professor because the whole purpose was supposed to undermine people who are constitutional conservatives. Yet we spent $400,000 on that study.

Those are just a few of the small examples of the silliness which goes on. People say: Well, $400,000 isn't much; $900,000 isn't much. The State Department spent $500 million during the last week of the fiscal year. What did they spend it on? Does anybody know? To buy brand-new crystal stemware for all the embassies throughout the world. We didn't need new stemware, but we had to spend the money, so we spent it.

Just think about that. We are responsible for that. We allowed that to happen. There is no oversight here. There is no aggressiveness in terms of controlling costs, and our default position is our agreement on this budget which doesn't address any of those problems.

The American people are going to be asking questions about why we get along so well. The political story is not that Washington spends out of conflict and partisan bickering because the facts don't lie. We get along way too well. We are going to get along so well that we are going to pass another bill that solves the problem for us, as politicians, but, in fact, actually hurts the American people.

I am not going to be a part of that, and I am going to keep yelling from the canyons and from the mountain tops until we start doing what we are supposed to do because this is not going to change.

It is my hope that some of us will wake up and start looking at some of the real facts. So $30 billion can make a big difference. If we just eliminate the items in this ``Wastebook'' for next year, we would be able to take care of one-third of the sequester. There are just 100 items here. I can give you 300 items.

I can give you $150 billion worth of stupidity every year, but we choose not to do anything about it. We choose not to do anything about it because you have to be a committee chairman in order to have an oversight committee dig into this stuff. You actually have to do the hard work to find out where the administration is spending the money.

President Obama doesn't want money to be wasted this way. He needs our help. Yet we will not help him. We will not help the American people. Consequently, the future of our country is at risk when it should be gloriously great. It is at risk not because of the American people; it is at risk because of us. We ought to change that.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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