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President-elect Donald Trump finds “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse” in the federal government, and proclaims, “we’re going to get it.” When it comes to the military, which Trump wants to rebuild, that is going to be a tough task.
As Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward note in the Washington Post, “The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations.” The 1.3 million troops on active duty are the fewest since 1940, but the Defense Department “was paying a staggering number of people – 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel – to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines.”
The Pentagon’s purchasing bureaucracy counted 207,000 full-time workers, with 192,000 in property management and, count ‘em, 84,000 in human-resource jobs. The Army alone employed 199,661 full-time contractors, as Woodward and Whitlock note. That’s more than the combined workforce of the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. Average yearly cost for each contractor was $189,188. The Navy had 197,093 contractors at $170,865 a pop, and the Air Force 122,470 at $186,142 apiece. And so on. No wonder the Pentagon sought to bury the study.
Whitlock and Woodward show how that evasion played out, and how military officials defend the status quo. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work is on record for having said, “We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization. We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”
Over at the Pentagon, the swamp is truly fathomless, with “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse,” as Mr. Trump said. Taxpayers should be on full alert to see how much of the $125 billion in “inherent inefficiencies” Trump can trim. Taxpayers should also see if the waste scandal prompts President Trump, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, to tell anyone: “You’re fired,” just as he did as a businessman.