A report by the Government Accountability Office — which will surpise no one who read last year’s cover story “Losing Battles” — found “billions of dollars” of waste annually at the Department of Defense due to business and financial management weaknesses.
“DoD’s substantial long-standing management problems related to business operations and systems have adversely affected the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of its operations; and, in some cases, impacted the morale of our fighting forces that are in harm’s way,” the report noted. “These problems have left the department vulnerable to billions of dollars of fraud, waste, and abuse annually, at a time of increasing fiscal constraint and have resulted in a lack of adequate accountability across all major business areas.”
According to The Washington Post, the DoD spent at least $400 million in recent years buying boots, tents, bandages, and other goods at the same time it was getting rid of identical items it had paid for but never used, citing testimony before a House Government Reform subcommittee.
The auditors found that only $4 billion worth of $33 billion of goods the DoD marked as “excess” from 2002 through 2004 was in excellent condition, according to the paper’s account of the hearing.
Just 12 percent of that was reused by the department, while the other $3.5 billion “includes significant waste and inefficiency,” the paper noted, because new or good-as-new items were “transferred and donated outside of DoD, sold for pennies on the dollar, or destroyed.”
“Waste on this scale affects our ability to meet the immediate needs of men and women in uniform,” said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who chaired the hearing, according to the Post. “The $400 million spent on unneeded equipment could have bought body armor, medical supplies, or more than 1,700 fully armed Humvees to protect coalition forces against deadly improvised explosive devices.”
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asserted at the hearing that the only beneficiaries of the Pentagon’s mismanagement are the companies that sell equipment to the government, the paper reported. “Federal contractors are reaping a bonanza while taxpayers are being gouged,” Waxman reportedly added.