Congress Urges Transparency on Pentagon Waste Report

Congressional leaders called for total transparency Wednesday in response to a Washington Post claim that the Pentagon kept hidden an internal report suggesting the DOD could save $125 billion through bureaucratic reforms. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, said the findings of the study, conducted by the Defense Business Board, were themselves “not a surprise.” In a joint statement, they affirmed, “We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty. The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.” The lawmakers detailed cuts that Congress had mandated to Pentagon bureaucracy in recent years and indicted Pentagon leaders for having “denied taxpayers the transparency they deserve.” They also urged the DOD to “take appropriate action to ensure all materials associated with the Defense Business Board study are made publicly available.” But Thornberry and McCain also insisted that bureaucracy reform alone would not fix the Pentagon’s budget problems. They pointed to “the damage of arbitrary defense cuts and the resulting military readiness crisis” and pledged to “continue our efforts to end sequestration once and for all.”

Others have questioned the reporting on the DBB’s study. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), speaking at a Naval Institute event in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, said “It’s an enormously important report, and I think it’s something we should look at closely,” but “I wouldn’t get overexcited about it,” according to Breaking Defense. Smith said the $125 billion in potential waste savings it mentions is estimated over a five year period, and $25 billion per year is a much less surprising number given the size of DOD bureaucracy. The claim that the DOD hid the report has also been challenged. In fact, most of the report has been available publicly online since its release in 2015. “I don’t necessarily think the report is overstating the ease with which that savings can be achieved,” said Smith, who is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. “But I certainly think the reporting on the report is overstating the ease with which we can save that $125 billion.”