Sen. Coburn Demands Pentagon Show How $500B Budget Is 'Squandered'
Thursday, May 22, 2014 01:42 PM
By: Drew MacKenzie
Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn has called on Congress to force the Pentagon to start showing American taxpayers exactly where the military is spending – and overspending – its $500 billion annual budget.
In a commentary for The Washington Times, the Oklahoma Republican said the Department of Defense is violating the Constitution by never having "passed a single audit," while also attacking the agency for its "wanton mismanagement" of government money.
Coburn wrote that the Pentagon is the only government agency that cannot produce auditable financial statements "in accordance with the law."
"Not knowing where this money is going isn’t just lawless, it is a threat to both our economic and national security," he said, adding that "Congress is fully complicit in this scam on American taxpayers."
He said that without an annual financial audit, the Pentagon has no idea where its tax dollars are going, whether it’s getting good value for money or even if it got what it paid for last year.
"Sadly, few in Congress seem to care that untold billions are squandered every year through wanton mismanagement and neglect," wrote the senator, who was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer last year and is stepping down after the November elections, two years before his term expires.
"The only way this cycle can be broken is for the American people to demand that Congress use its power of the purse to demand accountability at the Defense Department, rather than simply rubber-stamp the defense budget."
In his guest column, Coburn said that an "open amendment process" would result in the push for an annual Pentagon audit being debated in Congress.
He singled out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for criticism, saying that the Nevada Democrat would not even allow amendments to be introduced and debated on the nearly $700 billion, 600-page annual defense authorization bill.
Coburn also urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Audit the Pentagon Act that he introduced with Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat.
He said it would "create real incentives and impose real consequences in order to force the Pentagon to track its own spending." A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, Coburn noted.
He added, "We simply cannot afford to continue this charade any longer. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said, our $17 trillion debt is 'the most significant threat to our national security.'
"If we are going to borrow from China in order to defend ourselves against China, the least we can ask is that the Pentagon audit its books."