Pentagon Spending Worries Congress

Washington Report

(February 27, 2018) Now that Congress has agreed in principle to give the Pentagon a big wad of cash, it worries about how the money will be spent in the short amount of time remaining in the fiscal year.

Earlier this month, a funding bill was approved that put an additional $80 billion in the military budget, putting the defense budget at $700 billion this year. But much of it must be spent by Oct. 1, when a new fiscal year begins.

“I mean, I support making sure the military has what it needs, but the plus-up is so large that you could have a situation where people are just rushing to get contracts out the door to take advantage of the money that’s available this year,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, during a hearing this month, according to Politico.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told the publication, “They’ve got six months to spend an enormous amount of money. What’s going to happen is, they’re going to have a hard time spending the money. So there’s going to be a lot of extra money . . . sloshing around the Pentagon, and, in the years to come, we will get a large number of reprogramming requests.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House Armed Services Committee chairman said lawmakers are trying to find flexibility to allow the Pentagon to push some spending into the next fiscal year. He said some of the money may not arrive until April or May, giving the Pentagon even less time to spend it.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis tried to put everyone’s worries to rest during a press briefing at the White House.

“You can count on us,” he said. “We’ll earn your trust on this. We will spend the money wisely.”