If Congress is intent on saving billions of dollars in the federal budget, quit picking on food stamps and unemployment benefits. Go after military contractors, and their patrons in the armed services, who create vast fortunes via contract schemes and billing scams.
The details of these epic rip-offs are only becoming known, at least to the general public. Some of the expensive bad news has been around for years, but seemingly nothing was done to hold the thugs accountable.
U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus held a press conference last Friday to lay out charges and investigations involving the Navy’s three largest ship-supply companies, Bloomberg News reported. Perhaps not surprisingly, the contractors under suspicion or formally charged were apparently not acting alone. In one of the cases, two commanders were charged, along with a U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent. That will make an interesting episode for the popular TV show about Navy sleuths.
Mabus tried to suggest the Navy was on full alert. Instead he revealed the scale of the problem. Since 2009, Mabus said, the Navy has suspended 252 contractors and excluded another 400 from bidding.
The congressional election year of 2014 is the perfect time to find out what a slumbering Congress has done. OK, the answer is nothing. Consider the case of the $36 million headquarters in Afghanistan the local Marine commander emphatically said was not needed or wanted. The U.S. is leaving, remember. The posh digs, described as an “enormous white elephant,” the size of a football field, were approved anyway by a two-star Army general. A subsequent Army review found the decision “justified” in light of U.S. policy at the time.
That general now has three stars as the Army’s Inspector General, in charge of ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse.