The Department of Defense (DoD) learned the hard way to not ask for the truth if you don't want to hear it.
Senior Pentagon officials commissioned a study from the Defense Business Board, titled "Transforming DoD's Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change," which delivered its assessment of the department's spending in January 2015. The very first words summarizing the report are "We are spending a lot more than we thought."
But the report never saw the light of day, because its staggering finding of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste contradicted the Pentagon's repeated complaints that the U.S. military was being deprived of necessary financing, according to the Washington Post.
The report found that the DoD was employing almost the same amount of people as active duty troops (1.3 million) as those working desk jobs (over one million), which include both civilians and uniformed military personnel.
The report stressed "every billion saved in 2016 is worth five billion" for the following five fiscal years because of "the compounding effect," and recommended cutting back on the use of expensive and redundant contractors and career employees by offering up enticements for early retirements. But the report wasn't exclusively about cutting spending, it also recommended "retention bonuses" for truly vital employees as a means of "retaining institutional knowledge" and also increasing spending to streamline and modernize the department's technology.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work ordered the study, but displeased with the recommendations which he called "unrealistic," sought to discredit and conceal it from both the public and other government agencies after the fact.
According to the Post, Work believes "the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs — members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts — or to renegotiate defense contracts." As a result, the Pentagon ordered the data itself to be made secret so that no other agency could come to the same conclusions as the Defense Business Board had.
Some of the report's highlights of Defense Department waste include:
- The average administrative position received over $200,000 in compensation, including benefits.
- Over 192,000 positions in "real property management" cost taxpayers a total of $22.6 billion.
- Approximately 84,000 people worked in "human resources" positions.
- Over half a million military contractors were earning compensation averaging between $170,000 and $189,000.
When it's all said and done, about one-fourth of the Pentagon's $580 billion budget was spent on "overhead…accounting, human resources, logistics, and property management," according to the Post.
President-elect Donald Trump has promised a marked increase in military spending to substantially add troops and combat equipment, but he also promised to cut wasteful military spending. To do that, he'd need his chosen Pentagon leadership to be willing to do what their predecessors didn't, which is to accept real data and act accordingly, even if it makes it harder to beg for an increase in taxpayer spending.