By: Jana Persky
As the House of Representatives’ version of the defense appropriations bill is cobbled together, Congress should take advantage of another opportunity to reduce wasteful and ineffective spending by voting in favor of an amendment introduced by Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.).
The bipartisan amendment would eliminate approximately $3.5 billion of funding that the Pentagon neither wants, needs nor requested. After the Pentagon submitted its Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, congressional appropriators added nearly $5 billion to the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. The fund was originally established to handle contingencies related to our overseas activities but as the U.S. reduces its presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no need to continue to increase spending. Overseas spending is particularly susceptible to waste and corruption; the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has reported multiple instances of embezzlement, kickback schemes and bribery by Pentagon employees and contractors.
The Project On Government Oversight and a broad coalition, including the National Taxpayers Union and Progressive Democrats of America, wrote Congress in support of a similar amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014. That amendment was left off the final draft bill after a narrow vote in which it received support from both sides of the aisle. The appropriations bill amendment, revised from the NDAA draft, will cut much of the same needless spending but protect funding for the National Guard, increasing its chances of success. Voting may begin next week.
As Angela Canterbury, POGO’s Director of Public Policy said, “There is an urgent need to reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget, especially as belts are tightening across the government. Instead of furloughs of essential personnel, Congress should stop providing a slush fund for contractors. This amendment would at least end one instance of Congress misspending taxpayer dollars at the behest of big contractor lobbyists and campaign contributors.”