The Pentagon is coming under fire for hiding a study that exposed billions in waste, fearing Congress would cut the defense budget as a result, The Washington Post has learned.
The report found that the Defense Department was paying more than 1 million contractors, civilians, and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs that support the 1.3 million active duty troops.
The internal study was requested to help come up with savings in combat power as well as make the bureaucracy more efficient, but when the report revealed $125 billion in administrative waste—far more than anticipated—senior defense officials were quick to bury it.
But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.
So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website. [...]
“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board, told the Post.
“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he added.
On the campaign trail Donald Trump promised to build up the military, paying for it with savings from waste.
“I will ask that savings be accomplished through common sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks,” he said in a September speech to the Union League of Philadelphia.
While the Pentagon is a good place to start, the next big challenge will be getting Congress on board.
Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Post just how difficult that will be because lawmakers resist even the slightest attempts to cut the Pentagon's workforce, fearing jobs in their districts will be lost.
Without support from Congress, “you can’t even get rid of the guy serving butter in the chow hall in a local district, much less tens of thousands of jobs,” he told the Post.