WASHINGTON ― A damning new report exposing that the Pentagon buried a study finding the department was wasting billions of dollars on business operations has enraged Senate Democrats.
The Washington Post published a piece on Monday revealing details of a study that the Defense Department commissioned to help identify potential ways to save money and make its administrative workings more efficient. But the article says leaders kept the study secret when they found the department was wasting more than they had realized, and did not follow through with a plan to help the Pentagon cut costs by $125 billion over five years.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), ranking member on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, told reporters on Tuesday that lawmakers hadn’t been briefed on the study and that his staff is looking into it.
“But it really raises serious questions about overhead management of the largest part of our government and the most expensive department of our government,” Durbin said. “We want the safest nation in the world but we certainly don’t want to featherbed it with management people who are not doing their job and we don’t want to privatize this sending out to contractors that overcharge.”
The revelation of exorbitant waste should be a “clarion call for all in Congress in both parties to take it seriously,” he added.
Asked if he thinks top brass within the Pentagon actively tried to hide the study, Durbin said “it appears there was some concealment.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wasn’t aware of the billions in savings the Pentagon knew it could implement without laying off civil servants and reducing the size of the military.
He said he found the Pentagon’s actions “disturbing” based on The Washington Post’s report, but wouldn’t expound further when pressed on the details of the excessive spending.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called the cover-up “completely unacceptable.” She told reporters she’s “infuriated” because she “absolutely” thinks senior leaders within the department tried to bury the study.
“Here we are scraping and scraping and worrying about sequestration, and implementing this plan ― based on reporting ― would show that we could do a lot of things that we need to do in military without having to rob things like border security, and the FBI, and roads, and bridges and veteran benefits,” she said.
McCaskill, who will be ranking member on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs panel next year, added that she has directed her staff to “investigate this whether there is a hearing or not.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the Defense Appropriations panel, piled on, calling the Pentagon’s actions a “slap in the face to the American taxpayer.”
“The Pentagon is avoiding transparency and irresponsibly shoving billions of taxpayer dollars into dark corners of the Pentagon,” Tester said in a statement. “I am demanding a full, public audit of the Defense Department budget and calling on Congress to immediately fill the vacant inspector general position at the agency so we can hold these folks accountable.”