President Barack Obama’s Pentagon discredited and suppressed an internal probe that uncovered $125 billion in wasteful spending on the enormous administrative operations primarily ran by civilians and contractors.
The money could have been reinvested in payment for troops, weapons, and renovating the aging nuclear arsenal, the Washington Post (WaPo) has learned.
The Defense Business Board produced the study in January 2015 by a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, in coordination with consultants from McKinsey and Company.
For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses 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.
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) leaders – namely Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official, and Frank Kendall III, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer – reportedly buried the report by discrediting and suppressing its findings after the study discovered far more wasteful spending than the department expected.
According to the study, DoD is spending about 23 percent ($134 billion) of its $580 billion on back-office business operations, namely accounting, human resources and logistics and property management.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has pink-slipped tens of thousands of soldiers in the name of budget constraints — including many career-military troops who endured combat and family separations during a dozen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cuts have reduced the largest branch of the American armed forces to pre-World War II levels.
Instead of using the $125 billion in wasteful spending to save some of those military jobs, WaPo found DoD officials are more concerned with Congress using the study’s findings as an excuse to further cut the bloated defense budget.
The Post reports:
But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.
So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings.
In other words, DoD officials appear more inclined to protect their overweight budget than the jobs of combat veterans who have risked their lives to keep them and the rest of the United States safe.
To carry out the desk jobs of its overhead and core business operations, DoD is paying a staggering number (1,014,000) of contractors, civilians, and uniformed personnel, nearly as many as it does active duty troops (1,300,000) across the world, found the study.
Mirroring the Pentagon as a whole, the majority of the Pentagon business operations employees are civilians (448,000) and (268,000). The remaining 298,000 are service members.
The number of government employee and contractors (Pentagon civilian workforce) has flourished while the military has been shrinking under President Obama, a move that various high-ranking military officers such as Army Gen. Ray Odierno have warned is degrading readiness.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July 2015 that active duty troops are “now outnumbered by the civilians supporting them—a historic shift.”
According to a report released this week from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog, the low number of troops deployed to war zones, as authorized by President Barack Obama, is one of the primary culprits behind the increased reliance on contractors.
The increased use of contractors in combat zones may “undermine U.S. policy objectives and threaten the safety of U.S. forces” given the Pentagon’s “long-standing challenges in overseeing contractors in deployed environments, and the failure to manage contract support effectively,” determined the GAO.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a combat veteran and the only Navy SEAL elected to Congress, has suggested that that the “overweight” Pentagon needs to be audited. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Talking about cuts to the Pentagon used to be taboo for Republican lawmakers. Republican-elect Donald Trump promised to pay for a military buildup by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”