We often hear complain about the money that the DOD wastes every year. To be sure, it is responsible for some of its wasteful expenditures. But what most people don’t know is that the DOD is NOT to blame for most of so-called “wasteful DOD spending”, i.e. the wasteful expenditures in the Pentagon budget.
As a result of hundreds of Congressional statutes, requirements, audits, and other restrictions, as well as programs imposed on the DOD against its wishes, the leaders of the DOD do not really control, and are not allowed to manage, their own department and its budget. For example, as documented by Secretary Rumsfeld, the DOD:
- Has an annual budget of over $600 bn, but is not allowed to relocate more than $24 mn of it without the approval of at least six Congressional committees, obtaining which can take months.
- Is not allowed to relocate some funds to more effective programs and more important programs than the ones they’re currently being spent on, so managers at all levels have no incentive to save taxpayers’ money.
- Is required by law to submit no fewer than 2 plans, no fewer than 905 reports, and thousands of pages of justifications to the Congress each year, even though the vast majority of them are never read, cost a lot of money and time to produce, and cost many trees to produce.
- Has to respond to 2500-3000 letters of concern, or complaints, from members of the Congress every week.
- Needs Congressional approval to build a $500,000 building.
- Has been forced, by Congress, to maintain dozens of unneeded bases, which the DOD is not allowed to close unilaterally.
- Is constantly monitored by the GAO, 8 Inspectors-General, and a testing organization that report to Congress, with the result that the DOD is forced to maintain 24,000 auditors, inspectors and investigators – more than the number of Army combat personnel that can be deployed at any time.
- Has three separate Post Exchange systems, and a statute prohibiting it to merge them without the approval of the Congress.
- Is forced to tolerate the fact that every year, the Congress changes 54% of its R&D programs and 32% of its procurement programs, and then complains about the delays and cost overruns of these programs.
- Has financial management and information systems designed to report to the Congress on time and comply with the maze of Congressionally-enacted laws, requirements and amendments that have accumulated over time, rather than efficient managerial systems.
- Statutory non-defense related programs that consume $7 bn from the defense budget every year (humanitarian assistance programs, the war on drugs, etc.).
- An annual budget saddled with unwanted pork programs inserted by members of the Congress.
- Several programs it doesn’t want, such as the Alternative Engine Program and the VIP jet purchase program.
- A pattern of Congressional and legal challenges to most of its decisions.
- A budget which, in 1962, numbered only one page, only 16 pages in 1977, but 534 pages in FY2003.
In America, all civilian personal and business relationship are based on trust. Not on audits, inspections, investigations, requirements, reports, oversight, adjudication, or micromanagement, but on trust. The Congress, however, doesn’t trust the DOD, which is why it has placed onerous restrictions on it.
The maze of laws, regulations and requirements created by the Congress guarantees that almost every program run by the DOD experiences a delay or a cost overrun, and that whatever the DOD does is too slow. This, however, leads not to any simplification, reduction or easing of restrictions, but to yet more restrictions, which only worsen the problem.
The DOD is simply not to blame for more “DOD waste”. Most of it is due to Congressional restrictions and Congressional policies of meddling with the DOD.
The Congress should stop micromanaging the Department of Defense.