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Groups Urge Congress on Wasteful Pentagon Spending

Today, twenty-four groups from the left, right and middle send a letter recommending specific actions Congress can take to reduce wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

p wasteThe letter was sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee members, who will be considering the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after the elections. The NDAA is the bill that specifies what the Pentagon can, and can’t, spend money on.

The Pentagon and some members of Congress are complaining (yet again) that the military doesn’t have enough money. But we know that isn’t true.

Every year the Pentagon wastes tens of billions of our tax dollars – and most “fiscally conservative” Republicans don’t even blink an eye. If you want to spend a trillion and a half dollars on a plane that doesn’t work – sign them up!

Of course, these are the same Republicans who want to cut funding for SNAP (food stamps), the National Institutes of Health, Social Security, road and bridge upkeep, and all the other things that keep us safe and alive every day in order reduce the deficit.

Specifically, the groups urge lawmakers to:

  • Stop overfunding the Pentagon’s “emergency” war spending slush fund
  • Not buy any more F-35’s than has already been authorized (you know, the planes that don’t work)
  • Only buy two of the (very sinkable) Littoral Combat Ships
  • Not increase funding to modify a tank the Pentagon doesn’t want.

The war funding slush fund (also called the Overseas Contingency Operations account), has been used by Congress and the Pentagon to avoid spending reductions and pay for their pet projects. Last month the Pentagon even tried to use the slush fund to buy more of those planes that don’t work!

Experts have wanted to see the other programs cancelled for years.

Clearly, the Pentagon doesn’t need any more money – those who say otherwise are simply playing politics. However, these recommendations will go a long way towards saving taxpayer dollars and keeping the Pentagon’s budget in check.

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Calling out the Pentagon’s “Slush Fund”

Earlier this week, the popular military media outlet, Defense News, editorialized about the continued abuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. Calling OCO a “giant slush fund,” Defense News urged Congress, the Pentagon and the defense industry to “figure out how to live without it.”

slush puppie

OCO was set up by Congress to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it has been used in recent years by the Congress and the Pentagon as a budget gimmick to fund things not related to the wars and avoid spending caps.

Last month, the Obama administration announced that it would keep just 9800 troops in Afghanistan in 2015, at a cost of about $20 billion. However, the Pentagon is expected to ask for tens of billions of dollars above that in its OCO request. The House of Representatives is expected to approve that request later this month when it votes on the 2015 defense appropriations bill. 

Fortunately, with the help of a transpartisan coalition of groups, some Members of Congress have caught on that OCO is nothing more than a slush fund and are doing something about it. Several weeks ago, Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla, scored a victory by getting an amendment added to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (NDAA) that would limit what can be included in the OCO budget.

If the amendment ultimately becomes law, the Pentagon won’t be able to move things like the doomed F-35 to the OCO budget and the slush fund will quickly melt away.  

But now we must wait to see what happens with the final defense appropriations bill (not to be confused with the NDAA). The House Appropriations Committee’s Defense subcommittee has inserted a $79.4 billion “placeholder” for OCO while it waits for the Pentagon’s request. With all of the attention the groups have brought to the slush fund, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Pentagon was forced to request an amount below the $79.4 billion placeholder. And folks, those billions of dollars we saved will truly be cause for a celebration.

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A Special Time of Year for Congress and the Pentagon

Every year about this time, the hearts of certain Members of Congress go all aflutter with the knowledge that it’s their turn to bask in the glow of the media spotlight and feast upon the defense lobbyist dollars thrown their way.

NDAAFists will pound, faces will glow red with rage, and spittle will splatter as the voices of angry lawmakers reverberate through the halls of our nation’s Capital, crying out for the need to increase the Pentagon’s already bloated budget.

Yes my friends, it’s time once again for the House of Representatives to debate the National Defense Authorization Act.  

Led for the last time by House Armed Services Committee Chairperson Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (oh, how we’ll miss your smile), both Republicans and Democrats will irrationally advocate for more Pentagon spending.

We’ll hear calls that [insert latest perceived threat] will be able to destroy us all if we don’t build more [insert lawmaker’s overpriced and underperforming pet project]. Schoolchildren and the elderly be damned!  

There will be guest commentaries from all sorts of big wigs about how even though we will no longer be at war that the Pentagon will still need war funding for years to come. And of course, who can forget the F-35?

Oh, what a joyous season it is.

But wait! What’s that you say? Could it be that we don’t really have to throw almost unlimited amounts of money at the Pentagon? Is it possible that the Pentagon already receives way more than it needs? But how else could we use that money?

Maybe, if enough people speak out, we just might be able to rein in some of the Pentagon’s wasteful spending. And we could move that money to where it’s needed most.

Now that, my friends, would be a special occasion! 

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Missile Defense Fails on West Coast, Congress Tries Again on East

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If at first you don’t succeed, try again with a few billion more dollars

The Pentagon announced on Friday that a missile defense interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California failed to hit a ballistic missile launched an Army test range in the Marshall Islands.  This comes only four months after President Obama announced a $1 billion funding increase for West Coast missile defense and one month after Congress included funding for East Coast sites in this year’s NDAA.  Congress has a long and storied history of throwing good money after bad, but this might hit a new low.  The Pentagon hasn’t had a successful missile intercept in the past five years.  In a time of tough choices about where we invest taxpayer dollars, not investing in missile interceptors that can’t intercept is an easy one.

To read the article, click here.

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Senate Releases NDAA Language

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Just a bill

While NDAA may authorize billions more than what is allowed for under the Budget Control Act (sequestration), the bill includes a few worthy reforms. Included are salary caps for contractor pay at above what the President of the United States earns, and the bill forces the Pentagon to adopt a single camouflage pattern across all the military branches.

The full bill can be found here.

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Cutting Food Stamps but Not the Pentagon

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Sorry Meals on Wheels

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $552 billion National Defense Authorization Act – ignoring sequestration to the tune of $54 billion – even as Americans face cuts to food stamps, Meals on Wheels, and Head Start.  NDAA is the authorizing bill that determines how the Pentagon will spend its money.  This is unique from the Appropriations process that actually funds what’s been authorized.  Included in NDAA was an unrequested $5 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account to top up the $80 billion already authorized.  This is in the midst of scaling down operations in Afghanistan. Several common sense amendments that would’ve brought this piece of fantasy budgeting back in line with reality failed passage.  These included reducing the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10; reducing our troop presence in Europe; prohibiting the Army National Guard from sponsoring professional wrestling or NASCAR; and a $60 billion top line cut that would’ve brought the bill back in line with sequestration.

To read the article, click here.