Taxpayers may be startled to learn that even though there are automatic spending cuts (sequestration) this year, some of the most wasteful and inefficient programs still get funded. One of the most wasteful and expensive is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program. Despite The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibiting the funding of the program , DoD will be spending $380 million in continuing resolution (CR) funds to continue funding design and development of the program. Additionally, President Obama left the program out of his budget, but still Defense Secretary Hagel announced in a letter sent this past Monday to the German and Italian Defense ministers, that, “the U.S. would provide the money in 2013 for development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a joint venture between the three countries.” During a time when the country is experiencing fiscal difficulties and has a limited amount of resources even for defense spending, policy makers should be looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck and MEADS is not it. MEADs, which cost nearly $3 billion so far, has been plagued by consistent scheduling delays, cost overruns, and an overall failure to meet performance requirements. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance has written numerous blogs on this issue (click here and here).
The answer to that question may not be what you want to hear. There was $95 billion in waste and duplication. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released two reports, Department of Everything, which highlights waste at the Pentagon, and the Wastebook 2012, which highlights waste throughout the federal government. In conjunction with Our Generation (OG), the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released a video showing Washington, D.C., tourists giving their thoughts on wasteful government spending. As examples of wasteful spending, TPA and OG highlighted the $1.5 million for Pentagon beef jerky and the $325,000 the National Science Foundation (NSF) spent on a RoboSquirrels program. Both of these projects were highlighted in reports by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). According to Sen. Coburn’s report, Department of Everything, “Beef jerky so good it will shock and awe your taste buds. That is the goal of an ongoing Pentagon project, which is attempting to develop its own brand of jerky treats that are the bomb! Only, the money is coming from a program specially created to equip soldiers with the weapons they need.” Sen. Coburn highlighted the $325,000 for the NSF RoboSquirrels in his Wastebook 2012. TPA and OG spoke to visitors from California to Ohio to Texas to New Jersey and the frustration was always the same. When they were asked for thoughts on members of Congress making $174,000 per year ($285,000 with benefits), people were dumbfounded. They wondered why our elected officials made so much and received so much time off for vacation when American families across the nation—their constituents—are struggling financially.
President Obama released his long awaited budget today (access all budget documents here). Two months overdue and dead on arrival to a dysfunctional and divided Congress, the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget is nothing more than a wish list of things that will never happen. It is important to look through the budget and see where the President’s priorities are. The budget proposes to spend $3.78 trillion in FY 2014. That is $10.3 billion per day, $431 million per hour and $7.2 million per minute. There are two fundamental problems with the budget, there is too much revenue asked for and not enough spending cuts. Even though the budget calls for $24 billion in specific spending cuts, Defense spending alone will be $52 billion above the budget cap for next year saving some programs that should be eliminated such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The President’s budget also wants to raise more revenue via tax increases on the wealthy and a new program to offer preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through higher tobacco taxes.
The vast majority of Americans will never spend $1.6 billion in their entire lifetime nor will most people ever see that figure in a bank account, much less spend the amount in a single day’s time. But before you say it’s impossible to do, take a look at how the Pentagon managed to spend $1.6 billion in just a single day’s work. Fortunately, The Fiscal Times did the number crunching for us and offered just exactly how such vast expenditures occur. The article rightly notes that most of the attention goes to the big-ticket expenditures, including many examples, like the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has written on extensively. So what’s particularly valuable and unique about the Times’ article is that it zeros in on some of the smaller projects. The article notes, “But smaller projects often escape scrutiny, despite costing the Pentagon hundreds of millions of dollars. To illustrate just how the Pentagon spends money each day, The Fiscal Times picked a random day – March 4, 2013 – and reviewed what contracts the Pentagon awarded on that day. From weapons systems to prescription drugs, the daily cost of running the Pentagon added up quickly: 10 days ago, the Pentagon spent $1,614,108,656.”
It seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) today released a list of earmarks worth more than $500 million added to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution that is slated to fund the government for the rest of the year. With a $16.7 trillion debt and a deficit eclipsing the $800 billion mark, the Senate should be ashamed for adding more these earmarks to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution. Earmarks have been the bribery currency of Congress for many years, as both parties used them to buy votes, bring federal dollars to their district and ultimately get re-elected. Former members of Congress including Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) were sent to jail for accepting bribes to secure earmarks. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff also spent time in jail in connection with earmarks promised to clients.Earmarks circumvent established budgetary processes and procedures and further exacerbate taxpayers’ cynicism of Washington, D.C. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has called earmarks “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington.” In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks, yet there were reports of Congress backsliding on this promise - with earmarks being found in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills. It is time for Congress to be serious about eliminating earmarks for good by passing legislation like S. 1930, the Earmark Elimination Act, which was proposed in 2012 by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). S. 1930 would have permanently killed earmarks and given life to fiscal responsibility.
At midnight tonight (March 1), the sequestration ($85 billion in automatic spending cuts) officially kicks in. The amount of misinformation surrounding President Obama’s the sky-is-falling rhetoric when describing the sequester’s spending cuts is getting out of hand. In fact, it’s now so far removed from reality that the administration has started lamenting supposed cuts to a government agency that no longer exists. Back in September 2012, Congress requested that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) send a detailed report detailing all of the government programs and agencies that would be affected if the sequestration cuts were to occur. Just this week, Reason announced it had discovered a problem with the report. Specifically, “One of the cuts it warns against would affect an agency that no longer exists--and didn't exist when the OMB sent its report to congress.” Oops! The Reason post goes on to detail the government’s significant error: “The first line item on page 121…says that under sequestration the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) would lose $2 million of its $20 million budget. While that’s slightly more than 8.2 percent (rounding error or scare tactic?), the bigger problem is that the NDIC shuttered its doors on June 15, 2012--three months before the OMB issued its report to Congress.” If you need more proof, Reason’s site even includes a screenshot of the government’s page.
On February 27, 2013, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with groups from the Left and Right to urge Congress and the President to reduce wasteful and ineffective Pentagon spending to make us safer. There is a growing consensus—among members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, policy wonks of various stripes, and even defense industry CEOs—that lawmakers can, and should, find areas for substantial savings in the Pentagon’s bloated budget. The colaition, and military experts believe we can realize savings of at least $50 billion to $100 billion per year over 10 years in the Pentagon budget—without compromising national security. In fact, such savings will make us safer since our security depends on a sound strategy and a strong economy. The Pentagon must confront the threat to our economy with the same vigor, determination, and skill it has shown toward other urgent tasks. Our military might is not measured by how many dollars we spend but how we spend our dollars. The signatories to this letter are: Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Cost of Government Center, CREDO, Freedom Action, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Priorities Project, National Taxpayers Union, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Project On Government Oversight, Republican Liberty Caucus, R Street, Take Back Washington, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, USAction, U.S. PIRG, Women’s Action for New Direction, and Win Without War. Read the full letter here.
Every two years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases its so-called high-risk list. This is the list of areas of federal spending that are vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse. And, this year, just 48 hours after the President’s State of the Union address, GAO released their update for 2013. Titled, “High-Risk Series: An Update,” which details 30 high-risk areas of the federal government. Two areas were removed and two new areas were added to the high-risk list. The two areas that were removed included “Management of Interagency Contracting,” and “Internal Revenue Service Business Systems Modernization.” The two new areas added to this list were “limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks” and “Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data.” With 28 “repeat offenders,” the list clearly shows that there is quite a bit of work to do. With all the talk of deficits, debt, and the sequester, there couldn’t be a better time to discuss options on making the government more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.
Tonight was President Obama’s fourth State of The Union (SOTU) address (2009 was technically just a speech before a joint session of Congress, not a State of The Union). Just as in previous SOTU’s by President Obama, and former President’s, there is quite a lot to digest. As you can imagine, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) listened intently as the President talked more about his spending and taxation plans for the year. An article in The Hill earlier today gave us a sneak preview of what to expect, “President Obama will use his State of the Union speech Tuesday to turn public opinion against automatic spending cuts and argue that some of the money to replace the cuts should instead come from higher taxes. He will use the prime-time TV address to argue the economy would be damaged if $85 billion in automatic spending cuts were to go ahead on schedule on March 1, and will seek to set up Republicans to take the blame if they do.” Well, President Obama kept true to his word. He railed against the sequester (automatic spending cuts), asked for more revenue, and called for additional spending. The trifecta of what not to do considering that the nation is $16.5 trillion in debt and the deficit this year will eclipse the $800 billion mark.
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with 7 other groups to urge Congress to pursue a minimum of $50 to $100 billion in annual Pentagon budget savings over the next decade—savings taxpayers were promised in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are ending, and our defense leaders admit the spending boom that more than doubled the Pentagon budget since the wars’ launch a decade ago must end. Consensus exists among civilian and military experts that DOD can absorb at least sequestration levels of spending cuts while retaining a robust force to meet the nation’s security needs. The bottom line is that sequestration will not weaken our military and should only be the first step in realigning the Pentagon’s priorities. Reforms such as eliminating outdated, Cold War-era weapons; cutting programs the military doesn’t even want; reforming military health care programs; and closing unneeded bases will not only save taxpayers billions, they will also make our nation stronger by helping safeguard our financial security.