By Steven Nelson
Veteran conservative arm-twister Grover Norquist joined Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Michael Burgess, R-Texas, on Thursday to announce a new push to audit the Pentagon.
“This is an exciting project, because it’s so obvious,” said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, at a morning press conference. “This is going to change how the world works.”
Norquist and the congressmen called on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to expedite a bill filed Thursday by Lee and Burgess that would impose a .5 percent reduction in funds to spending areas the Pentagon says are inauditable.
The bill exempts wages and areas critical to national security from cuts.
A 1990 law requires federal agencies to submit to annual audits, but the Department of Defense is far from compliance.
“The deadline was 20 years ago,” said Rafael DeGennaro of the Audit the Pentagon Coalition. “The new approach is to impose immediate financial consequences.”
“It’s time to stop writing blank checks and start enforcing good governance,” said Lee. “Enough is enough. We need an audit, we need to rein in waste, fraud and abuse.”
After speaking, Lee posed for photos with anti-war Code Pink members in front of a large mock-up of a blank check.
Burgess said he isn’t certain the military is misusing money, but that it’s understandable some people assume so.
The Pentagon aims to have auditable financial records by 2017. Burgess said he’s skeptical the department is on track to meet that deadline.
The Pentagon was appropriated approximately $607 billion for fiscal year 2014.
Norquist said all “serious” members of Congress should embrace the new legislation and said “it’s a high priority” for his organization.
A similar bill that would have imposed a higher 5 percent penalty died in committee last year. Backers hope the 0.5 percent rate will win broader support.
“It’s not a draconian cut, it’s half of 1 percent,” Burgess told U.S. News on Tuesday.
An amendment successfully attached to the National Defense Authorization Act in May would mandate that the Pentagon rank its subdivisions in order of current compliance status. The NDAA is awaiting Senate action.
The Government Accountability Office reported in April the Pentagon’s financial house is currently a mess, with more than 1,000 weaknesses relating to accounting standards, management oversight and compliance with laws.
“Funds control weaknesses have prevented DOD from reporting reliable financial information, including information on the use of public funds, results of operations, and financial statements, and put DOD at risk of overobligating and overexpending its appropriations,” the GAO said.