NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pentagon Doesn't Take "No" For An Answer

July 22, 1999

In a stinging new report, the House Appropriations Committee says the Pentagon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on military projects Congress never approved. It charges the military defied the law and the Constitution.

"What do we have to do to make them understand what we mean when we say no?" asked Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee's defense spending panel. He said the Pentagon's actions showed its belief "that it can even move money to a program Congress has closed down, maybe presuming, 'Oh, well, nobody will know."

The Pentagon's spokesman, Kenneth H. Bacon, blamed honest mistakes. "Do we get it right 100 percent of the time," he asked. "Of course not."

  • Bacon acknowledged that the Air Force started and financed a highly classified, still secret project, known as a "black program," without informing Congress last year.
  • The committee's report charged that the Air Force tried to buy an $800 million military communications satellite without lawful authority, and illegally diverted from an unspecified program hundreds of millions of dollars to update its C-5 transport plane.
  • It also says the Pentagon spent millions of dollars on a "Star Wars" missile defense program that was previously canceled by Congress.
  • The report cited three other examples involving military trucks, missiles and tanks -- but did not provide specific cost figures.

Committee staff members say these practices were a chronic and worsening problem adding up to billions of dollars spent improperly and illegally over the past decade -- particularly in the last year or so as military officials have tried to finance more and more expensive programs.

The law and Pentagon procedures allow military officials to shift funds from one account to another -- but not without telling Congress. They cannot finance programs Congress never approved, or use money for a purpose Congress never intended.

Yet, said the committee's report, they have done so for years.

Source: Tim Weiner, "Pentagon Misused Millions in Funds, House Panel Says," New York Times, July 22, 1999.


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