The Senate Budget Committee recently called on Heritage Foundation expert Tom Spoehr, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, to testify about Pentagon budgeting and financial practices.
The May 12 hearing, “Waste, Fraud, Cost Overruns, and Auditing at the Pentagon,” focused on defense spending and whether the Department of Defense’s current auditing practices effectively measure its financial status. Spoehr discussed the existing checks on Pentagon spending and explained why additional requirements would complicate the Pentagon’s ability to fulfill its mission.
Noting that no organization is immune to fraud or waste, Spoehr told the lawmakers that “the Pentagon today is one of the most scrutinized and reformed organizations in the federal government.” He then addressed the adequacy of the nation’s defense budget.
Contrary to popular conception, Spoehr noted, the Pentagon’s share of overall federal spending has declined. Moreover, he argued, in terms of purchasing power, U.S. defense spending is on par with that of Russia and China.
Current defense spending levels are by no means excessive for “a global power with worldwide responsibilities,” Spoehr said, reminding committee members that “U.S. defense commitments include agreements with NATO, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as international sea lanes and other areas.”
Instead of cutting spending, Spoehr advocated for auditing reform. He argued that defense audits are excessively expensive, approaching $1 billion per statement, yet don’t accurately represent whether the Pentagon is financially well-managed. Moreover, he said, senior leaders do not use the audits to improve financial practices or for other financial decision-making.”
Spoehr has long encouraged the Department of Defense to be smarter about how it allocates funds as it moves to meet the challenges of “great power competition” with Russia and China.
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