For months Donald Trump and his supporters were told that a wall between Mexico and the United States would be impossible to finance, but a report by the Washington Post says that there is plenty of government waste to go around.
Exactly how much waste is hard to determine, as the report claims that “senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it” amidst finding $125 BILLION in overhead costs, human resources, and administrative fees alone.
The study, intend to “make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power,” is being discredited by top officials, and for good reason, as they don’t want to see their $580 billion annual budget take a hit.
The biggest fear for the Pentagon is that Donald Trump might see this waste, and decide to actually do something about it. With the United States having the fewest active duty troops prior to WWII, it would seem fitting to trim the fat, and reinvest back into our troops. In fact, during his campaign, the president-elect said that he would build up our forces by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-leading official, has said that the studies findings are “unrealistic,” after he had made it one of his top priorities.
“There is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization,” said Work. “Although there is a little bit of truth in that . . . I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on… We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization. We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”
So, I guess the American people are supposed to simply accept that there will always be wasteful spending. Perhaps it is too much to think that the government should be held to a higher standard than that of a typical privately owned business. But, maybe there is more going on than Work is willing to open up about.
In 2014, Work became deputy defense secretary after retiring as a Marine officer, and was faced with intense scrutiny over the military’s budget. He sought to fix this, and his first step was finding out just how much the Pentagon was spending on business operations.
During a friendly exchange with Kenneth Klepper, the former chief executive of Medco Health Solutions, Work was warned that he was “about to turn on the light in a very dark room,” and that “the crap is going to float to the surface and stink the place up.” Work went ahead with it anyway, and hired an outside group to conduct the study.
McKinsey, the group work had hired, was aware of the massive task ahead of them, as they admitted in a confidential memo it was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” to have it’s “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” measured. Not to mention, the government agencies wouldn’t exactly thrilled to hand over their budgets. The last thing they want is to have their budgets exposed, and cut.
“This is a sensitive exercise conducted with audiences both ‘weary’ and ‘wary’ of efficiency, cost, sequestration and budget drills. Elements of the culture are masterful at ‘waiting out studies and sponsors,’ with a ‘this too shall pass’ mindset.”
Early on, Work noted in a separate memo that the average administrative job was costing taxpayers $200,000 each in salary and benefits (brings a new meaning to ‘service’). Once the findings revealed even more excessive spending, those at the top were quick to dismiss it.
The Chief Weapons Buyer for the Pentagon, Frank Kendall III, said after a briefing that the findings produced “essentially a ballpark, made-up number,” and that he needed more people to work under him, not less.
“If the impression that’s created is that we’ve got a bunch of money lying around and we’re being lazy and we’re not doing anything to save money, then it’s harder to justify getting budgets that we need”
When Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made a speech criticizing the use of defense agencies, Kendall took offense. Mabus was critical of the Pentagon’s use of agencies like the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency, who employ 40,000, as a few examples of wasteful spending.
Kendall fired a harsh email at Maburn, telling him that “before you publicly trash one of the agencies that reports through me I’d really appreciate a chance to discuss it with you.”
Mabus shot back, telling Kendall that he “did not say anything yesterday that I have not said both publicly . . . and privately inside this building. There have been numerous studies, which I am sure you are aware of, pointing out excessive overhead.” At least there’s someone willing to call the government out.
This isn’t the first study to reveal such high amounts of what most consider to be waste, but they usually come as members of the boards are leaving. With a new president, there are always changes, and usually the agencies within the government simply wait it out. However, with the election of Donald Trump, there is the possibility of a real shake up, and the political establishment has no idea what will happen next.
There really is no telling what will happen next, as Donald Trump is one to see something like this, and take action. After all, his catch phrase for over a decade was “you’re fired!” Surely there will be some cuts to those cushy desk jobs, and we can put our money to use in the form of paying and supporting our troops who defend our country.