Michael C. Burgess and Grover Norquist / USA Today Op-ed & Karl W. Eikenberry / USA Today – 2017-07-28 17:26:09
Audit the Pentagon before We
Increase Defense Spending by Tens of Billions
Michael C. Burgess and Grover Norquist / USA Today Op-ed
(July 17, 2017) — American taxpayers have the right to know what we’ve bought, how much it cost, where it is, whether it’s working and what we need for the future.
It is time to audit the Pentagon.
In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act requiring every department and agency in the federal government to produce verifiable financial statements that can be fully audited. To date, each major agency has been able to complete this task except one — the Department of Defense (DOD).
This is unacceptable.
Right now our nation is facing a real crisis. The US debt is teetering on the edge of $20 trillion and our servicemen and women are finding themselves without all the resources required to fulfill their missions and defend our country. The DOD is one of the largest employers in the world, with over 2.8 million active duty servicemen and women, national guardsmen, reservists, and civilians.
In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon budget reached nearly $600 billion. Our country faces many threats. We must provide for America’s national defense while still being responsible with taxpayer dollars.
The Founding Fathers noted the importance of defense in the very first line of the United States Constitution. Congress initially created the War Department in 1789, but following World War II, President Truman proposed a new defense structure.
Even at this time in our history, we were spending more on defense than the government could afford. In his proposal to Congress, President Truman cited wasteful military spending as a reason for demanding a more unified and accountable defense department.
In the last 70 years, not much has changed. In 2014, the Marine Corps announced it had successfully passed an audit, but had to retract its announcement upon further scrutiny.
The Defense Business Board, an organization of private sector executives whose purpose is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the DOD, issued a report in January 2015 revealing at least $125 billion in administrative waste with a bottom line that “we are spending a lot more money than we thought.”
The Government Accountability Office — Congress’ eyes and ears on the ground for keeping the federal government accountable — stated in 2013 that it could not complete an audit of the entire federal government because the DOD could not produce verifiable documents. According to GAO’s assessment:
“The main obstacles to a GAO opinion on . . . consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable.”
Imagine average Americans citing the complexity of their finances for their failure to comply with an IRS audit.
The first step to reining in our spending and getting waste under control is a full audit of the federal government. The Pentagon must conform to the same level of accountability that other public sector agencies are held to when it comes to the spending of taxpayer dollars. The national defense is too important to remain a black box.
The Trump administration is proposing a military buildup with an increase in the defense budget of at least $54 billion, to be paid for in part by eliminating waste. That is a great deal of money. American taxpayers have the right to know how and how well their taxes have been spent in the last few years.
What did those tax dollars buy? How many tanks do we have? Where are they? Do they still work? If Americans need to sacrifice more to maintain our military strength, step one is to have a fully informed citizenry. A full audit of the Pentagon will make it clear how much we have spent, what we bought with our money, and what we need for the future.
Rep. Michael C. Burgess, a fiscal conservative and the most senior medical doctor in the House, represents Texas’ 26th Congressional District. Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Follow them on Twitter: @michaelcburgess and @GroverNorquist
A Real National Security Budget Will Keep the Peace
Karl W. Eikenberry / USA Today
(May 31, 2017) — As America prioritizes its spending in a dangerous world, the White House has proposed a hard-power budget that emphasizes military investments to deter war. Yet what it first would deter is any cost-effective work to reduce the wars abroad — civil upheaval in weak or failing states — that greatly threaten US interests and global stability.
This “national security budget” would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the State Department, USAID and United Nations peacekeeping operations, and end funding for the small, specialized US Institute of Peace — all vital tools for keeping America safe. We would be left with one massively expensive and blunt instrument — the United States military — to deal with any and all foreign policy challenges.
Viewed from home, the impulse to abandon most stabilization work abroad can seem understandable, if only because the violent collapse of a South Sudan or Somalia may feel too distant to matter. Even where mediation and peacekeeping can resolve wars, the results can be difficult to measure and can take years.
For many Americans, it seems better to deal only with the most urgent crises, sending our forces to surgically clean things up and return home. But a budget that cripples low-cost stabilization of weak states is foolish — the national security equivalent of, say, prohibiting maintenance on dams and bridges until they visibly begin to collapse.
New analyses of the world’s roughly 30 civil wars find that they are lengthening, now averaging more than 20 years’ duration. As Syria illustrates, they also are becoming more contagious. With global influence diffusing from its earlier concentration in the hands of superpowers, contending powers in any given region are backing proxy forces and fueling wars in weak states.
These insights emerge in a study of civil wars by 35 international security specialists for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The study, to begin publication this fall, observes that international mediation and peacekeeping often has worked, to little fanfare, in halting civil wars of the past three decades. And a major conclusion is that the system must be strengthened and reshaped if it is to help meet threats from civil wars and other intrastate violence. These threats include:
* The breeding of new terrorist movements. Stanford University political scientist James Fearon details “the remarkable increase in the share of conflicts that involve avowedly jihadist rebel groups, from around 5% in 1990 to more than 40% in 2014.” These wars are hothouses for radicalization and terrorism, providing the space, inspiration and training grounds for their growth.
* The largest forced migration of people ever measured. Civil wars have uprooted the bulk of the world’s 65 million displaced people, the most since World War II. Where masses of migrants find no hope for their futures, this crisis lays foundations for an even broader, new generation of ISIS-style extremists. Mass migrations already strain politics from Australia to Europe to America, threatening to undermine humanitarian and democratic values that built the world’s most developed states.
* A potential tipping point of global disorder. Consider this near-miss in the 2014 Ebola outbreak: The virus swept quickly through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — all weak states recovering from civil wars. Had the epidemic erupted during those wars, with no local government institutions that could be engaged to control it, the United States and its allies would have faced the nightmare of deploying tens of thousands of troops to either forcibly quarantine an entire region of Africa or to fight their way in, halt the wars, and battle the epidemic at the same time.
We face this danger now in the war-damaged, ungoverned spaces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The impulse to ignore such crises not only lets them fester; it erodes the international norms of behavior that have preserved global stability, and kept us from that tipping point of disorder, in the 70 years since World War II’s end.
Americans’ fatigue at the persistent violence of Iraq and Afghanistan obscures the good news that international mediation and peacekeeping has halted many wars, and at comparatively low cost. Peacekeeping operations had a role in 41% (21 out of 51) civil wars halted since 1991, Fearon finds, and appear to lower the recurrence of wars once stopped.
The cost to the United States of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier this year is less than 4% of what it cost taxpayers in 2007 to deploy one US soldier to fight the insurgency in Iraq.
Small teams of mediators from the US Institute of Peace have strengthened peace accords that halted civil wars in Colombia and Nepal. Unnoticed amid Iraq’s trauma, USIP trained Iraqi teams that have stopped communal warfare in several cities — precisely the stabilizer now needed to preserve the victory as Iraqi forces push ISIS fighters out of Iraq’s Mosul region.
US military interventions usually are more protracted and expensive than initially anticipated; and the results since World War II have often been disappointing. If war is the failure of diplomacy (of which USAID’s development assistance is an important component), then a budget that guts our ability to conduct diplomacy will certainly lead to more wars.
As the administration’s first draft of a 2018 budget has failed to face this reality, that act of leadership now falls to Congress and the American people.
Karl Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general, commanded US and allied forces in Afghanistan (2005-07) and was US ambassador to Afghanistan (2009-11). He is the Oksenberg-Rohlen fellow and a professor at Stanford University.
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