WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of lawmakers are supporting the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017 that would require the Department of Defense to “obtain an audit” or face a budget reduction of .5 percent.
“Congress has functionally given the Pentagon a blank check with no oversight or accountability,” said Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) during a press conference outside of the Capitol on Tuesday.
“It’s simple: if the Pentagon can’t account for how they are spending taxpayer money, then they should not have a blank check from Congress,” she added. “So let’s bring some common sense to the Pentagon and its half-trillion budget.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who is sponsoring the audit bill with Lee, said that protecting America’s national security should “never” be subjected to partisanship.
“Congress has allowed the Department of Defense to get away with 26 years of noncompliance of the Chief Financial Officers Act. The Department of Defense is the only agency that has not undergone a full audit. In fact, it has not even demonstrated when it would be auditable. It is time for that to end,” Burgess said during the news conference. “This is not an attempt to take money away from our armed forces but, quite simply, we want to know what we already bought.”
Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist said his brother David Norquist, the new comptroller of the Pentagon, supports a full audit. Norquist argued that the legislation is necessary because there is always going to be “pushback” against an audit of the Pentagon.
“He’ll be doing the audit. I can tell you both from private conversations and his Senate testimony that he was very pleased that the number one concern the senators brought up before they voted to confirm him was, ‘will you really do an audit?’ ‘Will you really do an audit?’ And his answer is yes,” he said.
President Trump is requesting a defense budget increase of $54 billion for FY2018. Lee said the audit would likely not be completed before Congress completes an appropriations bill, but she would like the Pentagon to commit to an audit before passage of its FY2018 budget.
“I personally believe this audit should have been done 10 years ago and I’d be willing to do whatever it takes to hold up whatever we need until we get a commitment that the audit be conducted. I’m not certain that the audit could be conducted this quickly, but we definitely need a firm commitment that it will be completed,” Lee said in response to a question from PJM.
Burgess agreed with the California Dem.
“I think Rep. Lee is correct. I’m not sure if the timeframe will comport to saying, ‘oh, you’ve got to do this before we do that,’” he said. “I agree with the president, I want him to rebuild the military. I just don’t want to waste money while we’re doing it.”
Lee said the .5 percent cut that the Pentagon would face under the bill if it does not pass an independent audit is “pennies” in terms of the overall budget. She urged Congress to begin to “use a hammer” when it comes to requiring an audit.
PJM asked Norquist if he thinks the .5 percent cut is high enough.
“Yes, that’s enough,” he replied. “All it would take is for somebody to deliberately stall or lie, and then a bill like this goes from 30 or 40 co-sponsors to 100 or 200.”
Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) are among the co-sponsors of the bill.