December 03, 2015, 11:30 am
By William D. Hartung

The recent revelation that the Pentagon paid $43 million for a gas station in Afghanistan that was never used has placed the issue of Pentagon waste on the agenda once again. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction estimates that the gas station should have cost about $500,000, but somehow it ended up costing 86 times that amount.

The gas station fiasco is just one of many examples of how the Pentagon budget is out of control. Another is the embarrassing case of the surveillance balloon that got free of its moorings in Maryland and drifted into southern Pennsylvania, cutting power lines along the way even as two F-16s were scrambled to shoot it down if necessary. The cost of the program, which is now under review: $2.7 billion.

These are just the most prominent of scores of examples of waste, fraud and abuse, large and small, which have been identified over the past several years. These misguided expenditures pump up the Pentagon’s budget while contributing nothing to the defense of the nation.

Examples of inexcusable waste abound:

The Pentagon paid $720 million in late fees on shipping containers that it leased to get material back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in addition to the cost of the leases themselves.
The Department of Defense’s Inspector General identified over $1 million in personal expenditures on casinos and adult entertainment establishments that were charged to government-issued credit cards in an 11-month period during 2013 and 2014.
A report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon had stockpiled $9.2 billion in excess parts and supplies, with another half billion on order.
According to the Pentagon’s Inspector General, the Air Force failed to justify the need for an order of 401 MQ-9 aircraft, leading to the expenditure of $8.8 billion on aircraft that it may not need.
A GAO report released in July of this year found that since 2007, 200 parcels of military aid to Yemen sat unused in a warehouse in Virginia. The Pentagon was unable to give an estimate for the cost of the items, but it included night vision goggles worth over $600,000.

The Pentagon employs at least 600,000 service contractors. But because it does such a poor job of tracking them, it can’t give an accurate figure of exactly how many of these contractors it employs, how much they cost relative to their civilian counterparts, or how much overlap there is in the tasks performed by contractors and civilian personnel. Better management of this work force could save untold billions that could be put to better use.

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