Citing waste, Hoyer wants tougher oversight of defense spending

The second-ranking House Democrat called Monday for stronger oversight of defense spending.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said a new report finding widespread waste in Iraq and Afghanistan should be a wake-up call for lawmakers pushing back against any Defense Department cuts.

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The Maryland Democrat is calling on members of the deficit-cutting supercommittee to keep such waste in mind as the panel searches for trillions of dollars in federal savings.

"As the bipartisan select committee on deficit reduction begins its work, it is essential that the committee’s members focus on all of the contributors to our deficit, on both the revenue and spending sides," Hoyer said in a statement.

Hoyer's remarks were response to a new report from the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which recently found that at least one-sixth of all U.S. spending in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade – more than $30 billion – has been squandered.

"Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted through poor planning, vague and shifting requirements, inadequate competition, substandard contract management and oversight, lax accountability, weak interagency coordination, and subpar performance or outright misconduct by some contractors and federal employees," the Wartime panel's co-chairmen – former Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency – wrote Sunday in a Washington Post op-ed.

"Both government and contractors need to do better," they added.

Many conservatives – particularly the Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee – have warned that cutting the Defense Department would risking ceding America's global military superiority to China.

“There is no question that China is rapidly closing the technology gap and striving to challenge the United States' military prowess," Armed Services Readiness subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said recently in a statement. "There is a question, though, of whether the United States will simply cede its global and military leadership role to a nation with uncertain intentions, but known disregard for human rights, basic freedoms, and democratic institutions.”

Hoyer, however, said the waste identified by the Wartime panel – particularly the $30 billion figure – is evidence enough that there's plenty of room for defense cuts as Congress grapples with strategies to rein in deficit spending.

"This alarming finding is just one more reason our nation needs stronger oversight of defense spending — so that taxpayer dollars can be spent efficiently on keeping our country safe and fulfilling our military’s missions," he said. "The findings detailed today remind us that all of our nation’s spending, including defense spending, deserve to be closely scrutinized."

Created this month as part of the legislative package hiking the debt ceiling, the bipartisan supercommittee is charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction provisions before Thanksgiving.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to submit its complete findings to Congress on Wednesday.