Oversight panel demands answers on Pentagon waste report
A bipartisan group of 31 House lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday demanding answers after a news report alleged the Pentagon tried to hide a study that showed $125 billion in waste.
House Oversight Committee members said in the letter they “question why learning about potential savings that would be enough to ‘cover the operational costs for 50 Army brigades, or 3,000 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, or 10 aircraft-carrier strike groups for the Navy,’ would not also be a priority.”
The January 2015 study by the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board had found that $134 billion per year was spent on back-office jobs and recommended a plan that would save the Pentagon $125 billion over five years.
The study was allegedly buried after Pentagon leaders feared it would undercut their message that the department was starved for funding, according to a Washington Post article that published Monday.
The Obama administration has fought back against the accusations, noting that Defense News had reported on the study when it was released and that contrary to the Post’s story, it was never removed from the board’s website.
A Pentagon spokesman even brought a copy of the report to an off-camera briefing on Wednesday to show the department was not trying to hide it.
Pentagon brings waste report to briefing to show it’s not being hid. Says it’s also been on website since Jan 2015 (tho not prominently). pic.twitter.com/Zvte7GSaZB
— Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong) December 7, 2016
Nevertheless, the report has sparked outrage on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for a hearing on the report, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called for an investigation.
Members of the House Oversight Committee on Thursday requested from Carter all documents or communication relating to meetings with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who commissioned the internal report, any efforts to discuss the study with the Defense Business Board or its members and an explanation for Carter’s decision to replace the chair of the board.
Lawmakers also requested information about costs and potential savings from back-office operations at the Pentagon, recommendation from the study that Defense officials are considering implementing, a copy of the board’s study and a copy of the study’s 77-page summary report.
Signatories for the letter included House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), as well as Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Rod Blum (R-Iowa), Brendan F. Boyle (D-Pa.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
Others included Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-V.I.), Steve Russell (R-Okla.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), as well as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
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