March 26, 2009

Feingold, Whitehouse Amendment to Reduce Wasteful Spending Included in Budget

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate Budget Committee overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the Senate budget resolution offered by committee members Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to reduce wasteful spending within the Department of Defense. The Feingold-Whitehouse amendment would redirect $100 million in funds toward reforms like recovering erroneous payments to contractors or restructuring acquisition programs that are at high risk of failing. According to the Office of Management and Budget, over the last four years, the Department of Defense has failed to recover nearly $300 million in erroneous contract payments. The amendment would help stop those types of errors from happening in the first place. The amendment was also cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“There is broad agreement that the contracting process in the Department of Defense has gotten out of control and has led to rampant waste, fraud and abuse,” Feingold said. “We need to reform this system, which is fraught with cost overruns, and strengthen contract oversight so we can deliver needed equipment on-time and on-budget to our service members deployed overseas.”

“Wasting taxpayers’ money is unacceptable in all cases and outrageous when it comes to our troops in harm’s way,” said Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney and Attorney General who now serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Feingold-Whitehouse amendment supports the efforts of the Senate Armed Services Committee and others to reform our acquisition process, through such efforts as increased competition among contractors, increased testing and prototyping, and increased oversight of weapons development. In addition to the ongoing efforts to reform the acquisition process, this amendment could be used to support increased auditing and investigations. Given the record levels of defense spending, this amendment will help increase critical oversight activities.

Waste in defense contracts has been widely documented. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an office Senator Feingold helped create, has successfully uncovered numerous examples of waste, fraud and abuse, which has led to indictments, convictions and court-ordered restitutions. And a study commissioned by the Secretary of the Army and headed by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Jacques Gansler recommended the Army make systemic and fundamental changes in the way it conducts business, namely by increasing the staff, resources, and stature of defense acquisition agencies so that abuses don’t happen in the first place. Meanwhile, the military lacks the resources to adequately allocate its funds. This has led to instances such as the Air Force reportedly having roughly $3 billion in unneeded spare parts while the Army has a $ 1.2 billion deficit.


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