Continuing Coburn's Legacy, Rep. Russell Publishes Waste Watch No. 1

In an ode to former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and his work to shed light on government waste with the annual publication of his Wastebook, freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) published Waste Watch No. 1 last week. It is the first publication in a series that hopes to expose areas where Russell thinks money could be spent more wisely. This installment identifies wasteful spending over the last few years in just ten government projects.

In Rep. Russell's words:

The items listed in this report total over $117 million. For the most part, this money has already been wasted. However, each item points to larger, ongoing issues that merit further oversight, investigation, or action by Congress in order to protect taxpayer money. Due to my 21-year background in the Army, most of the articles relate to defense and foreign policy—but I intend to scrutinize all areas of the federal budget. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to dig into these and other issues to identify ways to save taxpayer money.

A few of the items in the report include:

  • Afghan government bailout ($100 million) - Nearly all of the waste identified stems from a State Department transfer in the end of 2014 to make up for a shortfall in the Afghan government's budget. Though the funds are an advance on already-promised payments, the report points to the lack of transparency in whether or not taxpayers will continue to be held liable for Afghanistan's budget woes when the US has its own issues.
  • Equipment hoarding ($15.4 million) - The Pentagon spends millions of dollars per year on a storage facility for equipment that has not been requested for five years or more. One estimate says that some equipment could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of storing it, making their storage cost inefficient.
  • Poor missile negotiation ($11 million) - Another portion of the waste comes from a 2009 contract made by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). According to the report, the Inspector General of the Defense Department had asked the MDA to hold off on inking a deal so they could find more room for savings; MDA ignored the request, resulting in about $11 million more in costs than needed.

Although these kinds of projects will not make the kind of impact that meaningful tax and entitlement reform would on our fiscal situation, they are certainly areas of the budget that would be easy to tie together for extra savings. It is important that the government continuously reviews its programs so that every dollar is spent in an efficient, useful manner. It will make the federal government more effective and could make it marginally easier to live within the spending caps.

You can read the entire Waste Watch No. 1 here, and you can read our coverage of Sen. Coburn's Wastebook here.