By Kristina Brunner and Medea Benjamin
The Pentagon, the world’s largest employer and recipient of more than $600 billion annually from Congress, is under increased scrutiny due to reported spending waste. In a report released in July 2017, the Department of Defense Inspector General issued recommendations to combat billions of dollars in wasteful spending by the Department of Defense. There are 1,298 uncompleted recommendations and by implementing only 58 of these, the Pentagon would save $33.6 billion.
The majority of these open recommendations were made in the past 5 years and remain open due to disagreements within the DoD. In other cases, the potential for savings has already passed, leaving the Pentagon with excess weapons and facilities.
There have been many similar attempts to hold the Pentagon financially accountable. A 2015 internal report from the Defense Business Board identified an enormous $125 billion, over a quarter of the Pentagon’s budget that year, in spending waste on administrative operations. The report was buried due to fears that these findings would lead to cuts in the DoD’s budget.
Pentagon spending will face further scrutiny this year as the Pentagon prepares for its first audit in history. President Donald Trump, with his promise to eliminate government waste, plans for the government-wide audit to begin in September 2017. David Norquist, Trump’s nominee for the DoD comptroller position and brother of tax-reform advocate Grover Norquist, has been called upon by representatives to follow through on this audit that has been planned for 27 years. All government agencies are expected to pass audits, but the Pentagon consistently violates financial accountability and has already said that it expects to fail this first audit as well as future audits over the coming years.
Despite the Pentagon’s colossal fiscal irresponsibility and Trump’s call for massive cuts in government spending, Trump has proposed a $54 billion increase to military spending. He plans to pay for this increase by massive cuts to dozens of federal programs, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department.
Trump justifies this move by stating that an increase in military spending will support U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS and will allow for an expansion of the Naval and Air Force fleets. He claims he is "… sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history." The plan to “rebuild” the US military should rightfully raise some eyebrows, as the US spends more on its military than the next eight countries combined.
The proposed budget increase will need to be approved by Congress and would not take place until the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st. In the meantime, citizens can lobby their congressional representatives to stop feeding the bloated war machine that can’t keep track of the money it already has and could save many billions by heeding the recommendations of its own Inspector General.