A job for a mad dog
Trump has a unique opportunity to go after waste at the Pentagon
Like nearly all government agencies, the Defense Department wastes money faster than the taxpayers can earn it, and a study by the Pentagon proves it. The study reveals that nearly one in every four dollars the Pentagon gets is wasted while generals, admirals and their friends in Congress cry for more, lest the nation be left defenseless in a hostile world.
The Pentagon ordered the study in 2015 when the accountants discovered to their dismay that they were wasting more money than thought possible. The defense chiefs worried that making it all public might prevent an escape from the sequester which they said was hamstringing their mission to defend America.
What they have done, inadvertently, is provide a way for the Trump administration to accomplish something no one would have believed possible. The military and its good friends in Congress have demanded that any deal should provide relief from the sequestration requirements, which required the Pentagon take a $113 billion hit over the next four years. The Pentagon’s own study demonstrates that the reductions could be achieved with no negative impact on defense if the Defense Department would simply stop wasting money, more money than it devotes to actual war fighting.
The United States spends more on defense than Russia, China or other adversaries do, and yet the defense establishment insists the nation is constantly falling behind. Now there’s evidence of why. The defense chiefs might as well take a quarter of the billions the taxpayers allots them to the Pentagon parking lot and make a bonfire of it.
Federal spending is out of control because Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, tend to rate each other’s support of government on how much they are willing to spend rather than making what they spend actually work. Liberals regard conservatives who want to cut education and welfare programs as skinflints; liberals skeptical of military spending are denounced by conservatives as weak on defense. Liberals rarely question domestic spending and conservatives are loathe to find fault with defense spending. That must change.
President-elect Trump says he wants to end waste and abuse everywhere, and he should give neither defense nor domestic spending a pass. Only this week he urged the waning Obama administration to cancel a deal with Boeing for the development of two new Boeing 747s as the president’s planes. (Either of them would become Air Force One when the president is aboard.) The Government Accounting Office estimates these planes, together with their sophisticated oneof-a-kind electronics, would cost $3.2 billion. Of that, $2 billion will be spent on research and development, which would be available to Boeing, after all, for other applications.
Presidents before him promised to cut “waste and abuse,” and the promises were rarely redeemed. Because, unlike Barack Obama, for example, he is not hostile to the military, he might be the president who actually does something about the makings of that bonfire on the parking lot.
Mr. Trump’s critics say he has too many military types on his team, but if he unleashes Gen. James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis to make the military quit wasting money, he will earn the thanks of everyone, perhaps including some of the critics now having a good wallow in the first stage of grief.