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The Pentagon Conned Washington … Again

May 19, 2015 in Economics

By Mandy Smithberger, Christopher A. Preble

Mandy Smithberger and Christopher A. Preble

Advocates for higher Pentagon budgets won a victory last week, but their jubilation is misplaced.

Although the National Defense Authorization Act managed to circumvent the spending caps imposed by the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011, these budgetary shenanigans are likely to postpone a series of reforms that nearly everyone in Washington knows are long overdue.

Pentagon boosters shouldn’t be allowed to demolish what little fiscal discipline has been achieved in the last few years as long as Congress refuses to authorize another round of base closures to allow the services to get rid of excess infrastructure, modernize the military’s pay and benefits structure for the 21st century, and compel the Pentagon to eliminate excess civilian overhead.

A bipartisan group of 38 think tank experts endorsed such reforms in an open letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and leaders in Congress. We agree with most of what is called for in the letter. But, in the end, we declined to sign because it didn’t go nearly far enough to address the most wasteful aspects of the Pentagon’s budget and falsely implied that spending limits threatened to undermine national security.

Budgetary shenanigans are likely to postpone a series of reforms that nearly everyone in Washington knows are long overdue.”

For example, we agree that the growth of the civilian workforce is entirely out of sync with cuts to force structure. But a large civilian workforce is only part of the problem.

Feeding into this monster is also an excessive service contractor workforce — the greatest area of cost growth for the Defense Department’s workforce in the last 10 years. A 2011 Project On Government Oversight study shows how costly this workforce can be, finding that the federal government pays contractors 1.83 times more than they pay federal employees, and more than two times what the private sector pays for comparable services.

The Defense Department has ignored its responsibility to implement an improved service contract tracking system, shirking its total force management responsibilities and perpetuating billions of dollars in unnecessary service contracting costs.

As a result, as Rep. Chris Van Hollen [D-MD] recently confirmed, we have no reliable information about the size of our contractor workforce. Right-sizing the Defense Department’s workforce must look at the costs of all of these personnel, which will benefit mission and readiness capabilities.

The defense reform consensus letter calls on Congress to approve a round …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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