DOD Budget Invites Waste
Budget directors for federal agencies often come before Congress with litanies of money problems, but none have the lament that Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, expressed at a recent hearing. “We have a year’s worth of money … and five months to spend it,” he said. That is due to the December budget deal, in which Congress and the Trump administration agreed to increase defense spending by $80 billion in the current fiscal year. Giving any agency more money that it readily can use invites waste. Even before the $80 billion budgetary gift, the Department of Defense inspector general had concluded that the Pentagon could not account for an astounding $125 billion that it already had received. Do best to spend excess The money in question is for operations and maintenance, rather than for weapons development. Traditionally, Congress has required the Pentagon to return excess operations and maintenance money to the Treasury, so the Pentagon has done its best to spend all of the money. And it plans to do so again. “We’re going to do our best to spend it in that time frame,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, testified. “The add is so significant that we’re going to have to look at having the ability to transfer some of that money from account to account.” There is zero chance that the money will be returned to the Treasury. Congress should allow the Pentagon to spend the money over the next two fiscal years to prevent its frivolous use in the current fiscal year. And lawmakers should appropriate what the department can prove it needs, rather than lavishing as much money as possible on the Pentagon to prove that they are strong on defense.