Why the “Audit the Pentagon Act” will do more damage than good

A group of Senators including Joe Manchin, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, John Cornyn, and Kelly Ayotte have recently introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act” which, if passed, would re-state the legal obligation (already inserted into federal law by the NDAA for FY2011) for the DOD to audit its books.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It would obligate the DOD to audit its books! We’re all for that, aren’t we?

It sounds great indeed. But as stated above, the DOD is already under obligation to do that, and is on schedule to become audit-ready by 2017. The Departments of the Army and the Navy are actually on track to beat that goal by one year, and the USMC, a part of the DoN, is already audit-ready.

But even worse, the bill passed, would completely prohibit any new weapon program that is not already in production to progress from the R&D phase to the procurement phase. That’s right, no new weapon system, no matter how badly needed, could be bought under that bill! This is a recipe for unilateral disarmament. (Sen. Manchin claims that the bill contains an exception for “an urgent national security need”, but in practice, could still deny authorization for it.)

Meanwhile, the senators ridiculously offer the following “carrots”:

  1. The Pentagon will have increased authority to reprogram funds without congressional approval (notification is still required);
  2. The Pentagon will tell Congress which reports are obsolete, which will save taxpayer dollars by reducing unneeded bureaucracy.

But the increased authority will still be meager, and the Congress will still be free to reject the DOD’s recommendations, or do nothing, regarding obsolete reporting requirements. The DOD is already free to tell Congress which reports are obsolete and has been saying so for quite some time. Yet, the Congress not only has done NOTHING to rescind these requirements, it actually adds DOZENS of new unneeded report requirements EVERY YEAR in every consecutive Authorization and Appropriations bill.

Senator Coburn said that the purpose of this bill is “to help the Pentagon help itself.”

If the Senators want to “help the Pentagon help itself” and root out waste and inefficiencies in the defense budget, they could do so very easily by CEASING TO INSERT PORK into defense budgets, authorizing painful and unpopular but necessary healthcare and retirement program reforms that the DOD has repeatedly requested, authorizing base closures to allow the DOD to get rid of unneeded bases, rescinding thousands of obsolete report and justification requirements, authorizing biennial budgets rather than annual ones, allowing the USAF to retire hundreds of obsolete aircraft, combining the authorization/appropriation process, and funding more programs on a MYP basis.

The fact is that the Congress, not the DOD, is squarely to blame for most “waste” in the defense budget.

The DOD is not even legally allowed to merge its 3 commissary services without Congressional authorization.


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