Chairman Carl Levin
Ranking Member John McCain
Senate Armed Services Committee
SR-228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Chairman Buck McKeon
Ranking Member Adam Smith
House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:
We understand your staff members are currently engaged in conversations about how to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA, H.R. 4310 and S. 3254) in advance of the upcoming lame duck legislative session. To help inform your discussions, we have identified specific provisions we hope you will include in the final bill that reaches the President’s desk for signature.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. For many years, POGO has closely examined Pentagon and national security spending and proposed reforms to reduce wasteful spending that doesn’t meet national security needs and to increase accountability to taxpayers. For example, this year we identified more than $600 billion in savings with Taxpayers for Common Sense in our Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter recommendations. Last year, our Bad Business report revealed the government is wasting billions of dollars by outsourcing services to contractors, who charge taxpayers, on average, more than two times what comparable services cost in the rest of the private sector.
Naturally, several of the measures we urge you to include in the NDAA will increase government accountability to taxpayers. These range from strengthening protections for whistleblowers to increasing contractor accountability to improving information about how the Pentagon spends taxpayer dollars. Our recommendations also detail big savings, including cuts to wasteful spending in the Pentagon budget and costly, unnecessary nuclear weapons programs. Cancelling or delaying these programs can not only be done without putting U.S. security at risk but would, in fact, strengthen our national security by making the programs more efficient, effective, and accountable. Our national security ultimately depends upon our economic security, and reshaping the Pentagon budget is necessary to getting our fiscal house in order.
We appreciate that the Senate version hews more closely to requests for funding made by military leaders and spends around $4 billion less than the House proposes, but we urge you to do even more to rein in runaway spending by the Pentagon. Most agree the looming sequester from the budget deal isn’t the ideal way to do this, but as you sort out another alternative, you must not protect the largess of Pentagon spending. The Pentagon budget must remain significantly and substantially on the table.
While we write to focus your attention on the sections of the two versions of NDAA we support, we also flag some critical reforms that are not yet adequately addressed in either bill. These are issues that require your attention due to significant events or information that has emerged since you last took action on the NDAA.
Furthermore, we urge you to promote a robust legislative process that ensures the strongest, most accountable national defense budget. POGO was pleased that the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) held open debate and votes on their version of the NDAA, and even webcast the markup. Though not every amendment we supported was allowed a vote when the House took up the bill on the Floor, they did debate and vote on some 141 amendments offered by dozens of members before passing the NDAA on May 18. On the other hand, most Senators have not yet had an opportunity to debate and vote on the bill that was marked up and passed almost entirely behind closed doors by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). A bill of this importance with such far-ranging policies and proposed spending of $634-$637 billion taxpayer dollars deserves the most open and meaningful debate possible.
To that end, we urge Senate leadership to allow adequate time for debate and amendments to the NDAA on the Senate Floor. We hope the House and Senate versions of the bill will then be reconciled by a conference committee that meets openly with the proceedings webcast so that all Americans can witness how these critical decisions that greatly impact our national security and economy are made.
For your consideration, the following are our picks for the best reforms from the House and Senate versions of the NDAA…