Exclusive–Joni Ernst: Time to ‘Scrutinize’ ‘Egregious’ Federal Contractor ‘Bogus Bonuses’

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the U.S. Cyber Command defense authorization request for FY2020. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC, the Capitol Building — Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview Congress needs to scrutinize “egregious” federal contractor “bogus bonuses.”

Sen. Ernst, the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, introduced the Bogus Bonus Ban Act Wednesday, which continues her long legacy of making Washington, DC, “squeal,” and includes cutting spending and eliminating grift and fraud from the government.

Ernt’s legislation would cut bonuses for federal contractors that do not meet the federal government’s standards.

“You know that we have contractors that are well beyond their timeframe and where they’re spending too much on a project, and we shouldn’t be rewarding them with bonuses, that’s common sense,” Sen. Ernst told Breitbart News.

Many federal projects provide an “award fee,” or a bonus, that a contractor can earn in addition to other payments. While many federal regulators state a bonus “shall not be earned if the contractor’s overall cost, schedule, and technical performance in the aggregate is below satisfactory,” many agencies continue to award bonuses for subpar work.

Sen. Ernst told Breitbart News her concern for “bogus bonuses” “is all around” the federal government.

“We find egregious examples,” the Iowa Republican said. “By and large, we see a lot of this in DOD [Department of Defense] because it is the largest department we have, following that is VA [Veterans Affairs]. So, we have to watch for those areas. But I don’t think there’s a department that’s immune to these types of deals.”

Two of the more egregious “bogus bonuses” examples come from the DOD and NASA. 

The DOD Inspector General reported that the Pentagon paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in unearned bonuses to contractors, including $10.6 million to a contractor that failed to provide the necessary parts purchased for fighter jets, which creates a “life and safety concern” for airmen.

NASA’s Inspector General found the agency paid out more than $500 million to contractors for the next manned moon mission, which will likely be billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule as the result of the contractors’ “poor performance.”

Sen. Ernst said, “You really need to scrutinize and ask a lot of questions into it and whether it’s on track for meaningful work.”

“If you think about that and those are just two in there, and they are large agencies, but if you start looking into some of the others whether it’s USDA, DHS, and any number of other agencies, it’s a lot of money,” Ernst added.

Sen. Ernst said although it would remain difficult for to calculate how many bogus bonuses the federal government doles out every year, “it would be significant money and savings.” 

The Iowa Republican said that Congress too often appropriates money to federal agencies with little oversight after they grant those agencies money.

“The oversight is really important when Congress comes up with certain programs, and then they authorize the money, and then they appropriate the money, and then sometimes that just seems to be the end of it,” Ernst said. “Money is out the door, oh good, whatever, but we need to follow those dollars, and make sure they’re actually being spent the way should be spent. And if they’re not being spent the way they should be, there certainly shouldn’t be bonuses to contractors.”

Sen. Ernst also said that her SWAMP Act, which she introduced in March, would help eliminate grift in Washington, DC. Her SWAMP Act would move the headquarters of federal agencies outside of the Washington, DC, and ensure that federal workers stay focused on their particular agency’s mission.

Ernst said although her legislation has not become law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has moved hundreds of federal research jobs out to Kansas City, Missouri, which triggered a backlash from federal workers. The Iowa senator said that many of these entrenched bureaucrats remain too focused on their material benefit and not the mission of the agency.

Sen. Ernst said, “We just recently saw USDA, only 70 employees said that they actually move to Kansas City, MO. I think that they’re part of the bureaucracy, they’re part of the D.C. area, and they are so set on D.C. area and they’re not necessarily mission-focused, they’re swamp-focused.”

Ernst said, “If they want to be in an area where they’re supporting farmers and agriculture, they should be out in farm” land, adding that she does not “know of many active farmers here in Washington, DC.”

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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