Bernie Sanders’ attack on US defense spending distorts the facts
The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on “Waste, Fraud, Cost Overruns and Auditing at the Pentagon” on May 12. By the headline, you might think the conclusion of the hearing was predetermined: The Department of Defense is the biggest example of fraud and mismanagement in the federal government.
You would have been right. This was exactly the message that the committee chair, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Wanted to convey.
At first, Sanders described a Pentagon in the throes of “enormous amounts of waste and financial mismanagement,” and wondered why Congress should support the Defense Department’s over $ 700 billion budget account. given all these questions. Witnesses chosen by the Democratic majority parrotté back these messages at the signal from the chair.
All of this talk of waste and fraud at the Pentagon would be of deep concern if they were true. This would mean that the army wastes money which should go to our national defense or even apply to reduce our obscene national debt.
In truth, the accusation is patently false.
Among the many misleading statements made by the Senator was the Claim that “one of the main reasons there is so much waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon is the fact that the Department of Defense remains the only federal agency that has not been able to pass a independent audit. “
There is no connection between receiving an unmodified opinion on the statutory audit of financial statements and identifying fraud, waste and abuse. An audited financial statement only means that the proper accounting protocols have been followed and that the financial systems are repeatable. It does not say whether the money was spent honestly or efficiently.
As Director of the Heritage Foundation National Defense Center, Thomas Spoehr, highlighted: “Enron, the poster child for corporate abuse, managed to pass all of its financial audits, until it imploded following massive fraud.”
Of course, the Department of Defense faces significant challenges in integrating its multiple layers of financial management systems. Many of these systems were put in place before the requirement to be financially verifiable was put in place.
The average Air Force plane is as old as the financial audit requirement – 30 years. Adapting program management to a new financial standard will necessarily require time, resources and new systems. The question Congress and taxpayers should ask themselves is whether this time and effort is justified.
Sanders also dusted off a flawed snapshot that seems impossible to kill, request, “Why should we give more money to the military when the United States is already spending more money on its military than the following 12 countries combined?”
This is an extremely flawed comparison that does not take into account the actual purchasing power of any of these countries, the lack of honest reports from countries like China and Russia, or even the vast differences in interest and obligations.
It doesn’t take any training in economics to know that American soldiers are paid much better than American soldiers. Chinese conscript style soldiers, nor a BA in Global Affairs to understand that by treaty the United States has kept the world safe from global conflicts since World War II.
Even if only purchasing power parity is used to compare different defense budgets, Russia and China combined are already reaching the Pentagon budget level. Moreover, a country’s defense budget must match its national security strategy – not an arbitrary comparison with other countries.
None of this means that the Defense Ministry should be exempt from improving management and financial systems. On the contrary, the American taxpayer deserves a Pentagon that gets the most out of every dollar. That is why the ministry should pursue a new round of base closures, allow private-public competitions, allow the transfer of funds from operations to reduce their use or lose them, simplify the reprogramming process and focus on military missions. real.
And yes, he should continue to continue his efforts to publicly account for the resources that have been given to him, not only as a good steward of public funds, but to validate public trust. But good accounting practices do not equate to a leaner, less capital intensive army. It has a job to do, and the military is constantly reassessing what it takes to protect the country in an ever-changing world.
The Pentagon employs nearly 20 million people and controls more than $ 3 trillion in assets. He won’t be a light fighter. It has to be big, has many moving parts and the complexity that goes with it.
However, like Spoehr declared during the hearing, “Just because something is big doesn’t mean it’s swollen. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is tall, but no one would accuse him of being bloated.
The Pentagon is a heavyweight fighter with low body fat, aware of the importance of maintaining balance in weight, strength and agility. Congress shouldn’t expect it to accomplish world-class feats on a starvation diet, even if it was able to factor in every calorie.
This piece originally appeared in The daily signal.