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pentagon

In the throes of sequestration, on the heels of a government shutdown and with our national debt at a record high, it seems like an odd time for the Department of Defense to get into the marketing business.  Yet, a marketing stunt would be the only accurate way to describe yesterday’s  Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS)  “test” at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has long identified MEADS as the poster child for waste and redundancy at the Department of Defense. It is an easy case to make, and in fact, TPA identified MEADS as one of the biggest taxpayer “Tricks” during this past Halloween (read more here). After more than $2 billion in cost overruns and delays that put development 10 years behind schedule, the Pentagon rightly pulled the plug on the tri-national program in 2011. The Army didn’t want the program because it was too expensive and was plagued by a host of technical problems that confirmed MEADS just wasn’t up to the task. The Government Accountability Office and Congressional Budget Office supported the Army’s conclusions. Yet, here we are some two and half years later and the Department of Defense is still spending taxpayer dollars on the system that TPA has dubbed the “Missile to Nowhere.” In fact, in the last two years alone, our government will have spent another $800 million on this botched program. But what makes yesterday’s test so troubling is that U.S. taxpayers picked up the tab for a stunt that provides zero benefit to our Armed Forces.



fiscomiss

With the fiscal cliff last January and the recent shutdown and debt ceiling debacle, the past 9 ½ months have been a model of congressional dysfunction. And, as we have been doing for years, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has been following developments on the government shutdown debate and the ongoing fiasco of the endless impasse to agree to terms to reopen the federal government. The biggest deadline is quickly approaching, the debt ceiling, a limit set by Congress regarding the amount of money that the government can borrow for public spending. During the Budget Control Act of 2011, part of the deal was to raise the limit to $16.4 trillion, in return for spending cuts (those cuts coming now in the guise of sequestration after the failure of the Super Committee). The United States actually hit the ceiling on December 31, 2012, but “extraordinary measures” were taken by the Treasury Department to enable spending to continue and the debt ceiling is at $16.699 trillion now. The new deadline is set for Thursday, October 17, 2013. Should Congress fail to negotiate a deal that would be signed by the President to lift the debt ceiling, the government would have $30 billion (and cash-on-hand) to continue to spend for services, and payments to creditors; otherwise the US risks default and some early warnings have already come as we inch further towards the deadline. Though that may be a great deal of inside baseball, that is very watered-down and to the point in terms of what is going to happen at midnight tonight.


us capitol

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been keeping a close eye on the House, Senate, and White House as they have been going back and forth trying to resolve the current impasse that has kept the government closed (or at least slowed down many services) since the fiscal year began on October 1. Now, with the debt ceiling deadline less than 48 hours away and the threat of default a very real possibility, it appears that leadership on both sides of the aisle in Senate have reached a deal that would both extend the debt limit and keep the government open into early 2014. The crisis is by no means over, and it remains to be seen how this will play it out in the House, where many Republicans are wary to accept a clean Senate bill. The uncertainty is still very much a real factor in all of this, but one thing clear: this deal highlights another failure of elected officials to protect taxpayers, and instead is another sign that the era big government is still very much alive.  It is also a sign that Congress will continue to budget by crisis and not by common sense and fiscal responsibility.  It is almost fitting that this fiscal fiasco plays out in October, a month known for Halloween and scaring people.


Today is the last day of the fiscal year and all the talk has been about a potential government shutdown.  The biggest problem with all of the talk of the government shutdown has been the lack of talk about the deficit and debt and the real fiscal problems facing the country. The new fiscal year and the looming deadline of a government shutdown bring about a real opportunity to come up with concrete spending cuts that are not only necessary but also wise. What is most difficult for politicians is to come up with meaningful resolutions to the very real problems the nation is facing. Instead, it seems, they would prefer to engage in brinksmanship all under the guise of protecting the sacred cows they hold dear (entitlements, defense, and subsidies); while working families across America continue to struggle to find ways to manage their own decreasing budgets. This is not only unacceptable, it is untenable and the issues facing the Congress and the White House over the next few weeks need to be dealt with in a substantive way so that there can be a real chance to solve the all-too-real spending problem. During the next fiscal year the Congress must focus on reducing spending considering that the government is wasting billions and there are room for cuts in many areas. With this in mind, no program should go unchecked and every agency should be under the magnifying glass.



capitol

(This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on Thursday, September 26, 2013)

House and Senate Republicans would like you to believe that they are willing to do almost anything — including forcing a government shutdown or a default on the debt ceiling — to stop the implementation of Obamacare. They are rightly appalled at the damage that Obamacare is already doing to our economy and healthcare system, since the implementation thus far has been a train wreck. However, for all the debate, votes to repeal, and genuine opposition from Republicans in Congress, the truth is that the GOP and its profligate ways actually created Obamacare. The story begins in 2005. Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Earmarks were considered the accepted way of doing business in Washington then and 2005 was the year that the infamous Bridge to Nowhere earmark was born. The plan was for the project to be funded for fiscal year (FY) 2006. The earmark’s “parents” were two prominent Republicans, the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The Bridge to Nowhere is now a part of American folklore as a project that many Alaskans didn’t want and the poster child for government waste. The grassroots fought hard against the bridge and their efforts paid off as the Alaskan legislators were ultimately forced to drop the earmark from the appropriations bill. Conservative activists saw the power of working in concert to reduce government waste and pork-barrel spending. Unfortunately, members of Congress didn’t learn the same lesson. While the grassroots was focused on enacting more conservative policies, Republicans in Congress remained focused on protecting their pet projects. The divide between elected Republicans and ordinary Americans on government spending was clear.



09-03-2013 at 09:24 am - Michael Ostrolenk - Posted in: Rep. "Buck" McKeon, Spending Cuts, Sequestration, R Street Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Defense - 0 Comment

(This piece first appeared on September 3, 2013 in The American Conservative.  The piece was written by Michael Ostrolenk, national security consultant.  While TPA does not take positions on military intervention/stratgey, we do take a strong position on military funding and budget cuts.) Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), who is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), said recently on CNN, “We cannot keep asking the military to perform mission after mission with sequestration… hanging over their heads.”  He pointed out that Obama has surged troops in Afghanistan, flown missions over Libya, and changed strategy to focus on the Pacific all while cutting Pentagon spending. McKeon said, “Our military has had over a trillion dollars of cuts over the last couple of years and going forward.” Chairman McKeon makes some good points, but they mostly out of context. There have not been trillions of dollars in cuts to the Pentagon. He was not given all of the money he requested, but that’s not an actual cut.  The U.S. government is $17 trillion dollars in debt. He cannot wish the debt away so the U.S. military can buy all that his defense contractor friends want to sell Uncle Sam. There are fiscal realities that need to be addressed. Sequestration was a really poor way of doing so, but it was not Obama’s alone.  It was part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), which was supported by both the House (run by Republicans) and Senate before being signed into law by President Obama.  And sequestration will not lead to trillions in cuts to the Pentagon budget. Parts of his statements have some truth, though. Yes, our military cannot operate as it has while we’re also reducing Pentagon spending. But we are not engaged in Iraq any longer, and we are winding down operations in Afghanistan. There is no need to spend the type of money we did while engaged in two wars. Also, it might prove prudent to start asking tough questions and not just throwing money and other resources at unquestioned assumptions about the threats the U.S faces in an ever-changing world.



IRS Building
IRS Building on Constitution Avenue (courtesy Magnus Manske)

Whether it’s spending millions of taxpayer dollars on needless conferences (with silly videos) or using their power to target individuals simply on the basis of ideology, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has written about the IRS and the subsequent developments that have put a spotlight on an agency out of control. The latest out of the beleaguered agency is news late last week that the IRS is set to pay employee bonuses totaling a staggering amount of $70 million dollars. What is even more outlandish is that this directly defies an order from the Obama Administration to halt the bonuses due to Sequestration. When Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) exposed this bonus deal with the National Treasury Employees Union last Wednesday, Michelle Eldridge, spokeswoman for the IRS, said that the “IRS is under a legal obligation to comply with its collective bargaining agreement, which specifies the terms by which awards are paid to bargaining-unit employees… In accordance with OMB guidance, the IRS is actively engaged with NTEU on these matters in recognition of our current budgetary constraints." The agency would not comment on who exactly would get bonuses, including Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, who held top positions in the agency’s tax exempt division during the time the targeting occurred. Senator Grassley disagreed and Grassley noted in a letter that “While the IRS may claim that these bonuses are legally required under the original bargaining unit agreement, that claim would allegedly be inaccurate."



06-19-2013 at 07:43 am - Michi Iljazi - Posted in: Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Spending Cuts, Spending, Sequestration, Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn, Michi Iljazi, House, Congress - 0 Comment

US Capitol

In an outrageous but unsurprising revelation about the extent to which our tax dollars are being wasted by Washington politicians this one extends to the staff of those very elected officials charged with the task of spending federal funds wisely. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), who has been diligent when it comes to exposing waste and fraud in government, sent a detailed letter to Congressional Leaderslate last month detailing many of the programs he believes need to be ended due to the amount of money they cost relative to the lack of value they are worth in relation to benefitting the taxpayers. Sen. Coburn notes that “There are a variety of commonsense actions Congress could take to save money within its own budget…” and he cites an extensive list but one in particular caught our eye: Lifestyle Coaching for Congress.  This section of the letter outlines what amounts to be nothing more than taxpayer funded activities that literally have nothing to do with how legislative staff should be functioning as a paid member of a Senator or Representative’s office:

  • A class to help staffers socially titled “Small Talk: Breaking the Ice in Social Situations”; and
  • A lifestyle class designed to help staffers titled “Lighten Up! Spring Cleaning for your Body and Your Life,” where staffers can learn about healthy eating and recipes to be “balanced, calm and focused and several practices that will support you in releasing the old and inviting in the new.”
  • From Stress to Relaxation to help staffers with “exhaustion and lack of clarity” (Senate)
  • Your Credit Score – Friend or Foe (House)
  • Choose Your Attitude: Attitude is Everything (Senate)
  • What’s My Communication Style? (Senate)
  • Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep (Senate)


Right now in Washington congressional leaders are crafting spending bills to continue the funding of the government and there is always a temptation when writing an appropriations bill to fill it with unnecessary spending. This is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon but there are ways to combat this overspending and Congress has even played a role at times.  Last week, in an effort led by the National Taxpayers Union, TPA joined several other free-market and taxpayer groups in urging the Congress to follow the spending limits set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BAC) and the House passed budget when it comes time to pass appropriations bills. In a time where we are facing serious debt and deficit problems, it is crucial that Congress does not break their own rules and exceed the spending limits set forth in the Sequester, and in fiscal year 2014, compliance means a reduction in total discretionary spending by 2 percent to a level of $967 billion… Congress must adhere to this limit to show taxpayers that fiscal discipline is feasible in a time when it is absolutely necessary. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance will be following all the latest developments as it relates to the upcoming appropriations bills and we hope that Congress will act responsibly.

Click read more to read the full letter



NTU/RSt Report

T
he goal of balancing fiscal responsibility with efficiency when it comes to Defense spending has always been an important issue. In fact, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has done extensive work on this matter and it is always encouraging to see other free-market organizations join in the effort to identify smart ways where money can be saved in defense spending, without jeopardizing important programs essential to national security. Last week, a joint report put together by NTU and the R Street Institute was released entitled “Defending America, Defending Taxpayers: How Pentagon Spending Can Better Reflect Conservative Values” which focuses on the number of ways that the Pentagon’s massive budget can be cut, saving nearly $1.9 trillion dollars with 100 specific cuts to reflect smart defense policy, while at the same time being beneficial to taxpayers noting that the, “‘universe’ of programs and processes in need of reform at the Pentagon is more than large enough to allow for compliance with so-called sequestration while maintaining the strongest and most capable military the world has ever known.” There are many recommendations that the report’s authors, Pete Sepp and Andrew Moylan, indentify and though they are all achievable it is not likely we will be able to see them all implemented, but what is important is that the report gives specific ways that the Pentagon can become more efficient, without deviating from their role as an agency vested with providing national security. Savings in the report include: $878.5 billion through 30 recommendations by overhauling deficient processes and management structures, including a reduction in DoD printing costs, consolidation of foreign language contracts, combining support services at joint bases, and a full audit of Pentagon finances; $618.6 billion through 20 recommendations with personnel, compensation, and benefit reforms ranging from less spending on military bands to capping the troop presence in Europe; from health care benefit restructuring to adjusting the "high-three" retirement formula; and $385.8 billion through 50 recommendations by eliminating wasteful, unnecessary, or low-priority weapons systems, such as the SM-3 Block II-B missile (eliminated in favor of less expensive options), the F-35 fighter (replaced with other jets), refurbishment of M-1 tanks (delayed), and the Virginia class submarine (reduced in procurement).



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