As Defense Bill Heads to President’s Desk, Small Victories Among Missed Opportunities

Today, the Senate passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 92-7, following the House’s approval last week, clearing the final hurdle before the bill goes to the president’s desk. In response, organizations from the left and right offered mixed reviews of Congress’ choices in this defense bill, applauding Congress for avoiding some boondoggles while reiterating the urgency of tackling irresponsibly high levels of Pentagon spending in the upcoming budget process:

Nan Swift, Federal Affairs Manager at National Taxpayers Union:

“This is a mixed bag for taxpayers – there were some significant wins, particularly when it comes to transparency and government accountability. And we’re pleased that the Overseas Contingency Fund plus-up wasn’t as large as anticipated.

However, taxpayers still need to watch what Congress does with the continuing resolution and rumored supplementals to see if appropriators can demonstrate the same fiscal restraint when it’s real dollars on the line. The status quo isn’t good for our national security or growing debt and future authorizations will have to include serious reforms.”

Stephen Miles, Director of Win Without War:

“Once again Congress has failed to do its job in making the tough choices needed to right the Pentagon’s ship. Once again, they failed to tackle wasteful spending and gross mismanagement that has seen programs like the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship fall years behind schedule, come in billions over budget, and produce platforms of limited utility in modern warfare.

Instead, Congress has opted to simply throw more than $600 billion at the problem and hope it will magically get better, including $3.2 billion the Administration did not even ask for. Congress can pat itself on the back for passing the NDAA for the 53rd time in a row, but they should be ashamed of once again failing to enforce common sense reforms that would save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars while strengthening our national security.”

Mandy Smithberger, Director the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO):

“This was a tentatively positive step, but Congress can still do more. We are heartened that the bipartisan work of the committees resulted in significantly cutting parochial add-ons, and may provide a path forward for making the Pentagon more responsive and accountable to its citizens. We encourage Congress to continue to look and look harder at other opportunities to eliminate programs that are not effective or affordable, such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the F-35. Earlier this year, POGO and fifteen other groups sent a letter to Congress that recommended over $38 billion in potential savings at the Pentagon. Against the backdrop of this week’s revelation of $125 billion in potential savings, we urge Congress and the Pentagon to revisit those recommendations and seek every opportunity in the upcoming budget appropriations process to reform, reduce or eliminate wasteful Pentagon spending.”