Transparency advocate says government agencies face 'use it or lose it' spending

Government transparency advocate Adam Andrzejewski said in an interview that aired Thursday on Hill.TV's "Rising" that agencies are experiencing a "use it or lose it phenomenon" when it comes to spending. 

"It's when the agency heads of these departments, they spend down their budgets this year, so they get the same or more from Congress on appropriation for next year," Andrzejewski, CEO of the watchdog group Open the Books, told Hill.TV's Julia Manchester earlier this month. 

"What we found in September of 2018, the last month of the fiscal year, the federal agencies, as you mentioned, spent $97 billion out of their budgets in that final month," he continued.

"In the last week, it was $53 billion [that] went out the door. That's equivalent to one out of every nine, one out of every 10 dollars spent on contracts on the year, flowed out the door in the last week," he said. 

Open the Books released a report this month, showing the federal government spent $97 billion last September on items including alcohol, golf carts, lobster tails and china. 

Andrzejewski pointed specifically to the Pentagon's expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, which included large amounts of money for seafood. 

"In the last month, they spent nearly $5 million dollars on lobster tail and snow crab," Andrzejewski said. "They spent $22 million dollars on lobster tail last year over the course of the last four years, the Pentagon has spent roughly $55 million on lobster tail."

The report has caught the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight MORE (R-Ky.), who called the findings an "insult to taxpayers" in a tweet.  

A Department of Defense spokesperson told Hill.TV in a statement that the Defense Logistics Agency purchased $1.6 million in crab and lobster items, which is close to what the typical monthly average of $1.4 million has been for the past seventeen months. 

"In September 2018, DLA  purchased $1.6 million in crab and lobster items, ($0.67 million for lobster and $0.94 million for crab)," the statement said.  "This amount is close to the typical monthly average of $1.4 million for the previous 17 months, and is 70 percent less than what has been reported, due to the way cost data is collated by USASpending.gov.  The crab and lobster items were requested by more than 250 different DLA customers – primarily military units.  Of these, about 75 percent of crab and lobster items were delivered to units deployed overseas or embarked on ships.  These items are usually requested as a troop morale builder or for special occasions like service birthdays." 

— Julia Manchester