POLITICS

Defense Department Went On Multimillion-Dollar Seafood Spending Spree: Report

Lawmakers have said that "use-it-or-lose-it" spending promotes waste.

The U.S. Defense Department shelled out millions of dollars on pricey seafood in a mad dash to use up the last of its budget by the end of the fiscal year, according to a new report from government watchdog OpenTheBooks.com.

The analysis released this month tracked federal “use-it-or-lose-it” spending for 2018 — leftover money that agencies must use before Oct. 1, after which the funds don’t carry over.

The Defense Department spent $2.3 million on crab and another $2.3 million on lobster tail, the report said. The department did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s question about why it spent so much on seafood.

The report also looked at spending by Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and the Executive Office of the President. Altogether, the agencies racked up roughly $97 billion in contract spending — primarily on weapons, which accounted for $818.1 million. Furniture, food, and marketing and public relations accounted for more than $400 million each.

Across the departments, spending on luxury food items was common, including nearly $300,000 on steak and almost $25,000 on candy bars.

Transportation totaled just under $300 million in spending, with more than $670,000 of that going to golf carts.

The 32-page report identifies a laundry list of other seemingly nonessential items, including a fidget spinner toy and a Wexford leather club chair with a $9,241 price tag. 

The race to spend remaining funds intensified throughout September, with the departments in the report spending $8 billion altogether in the first week and ending at $53.3 billion within the fourth and final week.

Lawmakers including Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wrote to more than a dozen federal agencies voicing opposition to the excessive spending that can result from the “use-it-or-lose it” policy.

“Although not a new phenomenon, use it or lose it spending can lead to waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” their August 2018 letter said. “The Committee [on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs] has previously raised concerns about the potential for waste and abuse the practice presents.”

OpenTheBooks.com is a project of American Transparency, an Illinois-based public charity which does not accept government funding. Its report used data obtained via the Federal Funding and Accountability Transparency Act of 2006.

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