Waste Watch: U.S. defense spending

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – When Congress returns from its August recess, it will be greeted by a $500 billion spending bill, approved by the Senate. But before the House takes action, the legislation is already facing criticism over what some consider billions of dollars in pork.

As the president and Congress continue to wrangle over the federal budget, there is a parallel battle looming with big stakes—this one involves defense spending.

Government waste expert Peter Schweizer says there is a bipartisan effort to fund pet military projects and it’s wasting taxpayer dollars.

“If you are a politician and you want to carve out money for your district, the best place to do that is the military budget,” said Schweizer, with the Government Accountability Institute.

Countless stories have been done on tanks, planes, equipment and programs that are still alive, even when the military says it doesn’t need them. Schweizer and other waste critics say the motivation of Congress is protecting jobs and businesses in their home states.

“Those decisions, I think, should be made by our military commanders, they shouldn’t be made by members of Congress,” Schweizer said.

Some looking at this issue say there are military spending projects that on the surface may appear to be wasteful, but in reality their impact on the national economy extends far beyond one Congressional district or one state.

Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) sits on the House Appropriations Committee, so defense funding comes across his desk.

“I have to tell you, I think we should be increasing defense spending, not cutting it,” Rep. Harris said. “The defense industry is one of the industries that’s uniquely American, because of our rules of procurement.”

Rep. Harris disagrees that members of Congress are simply being protectionists for military projects in their districts. He believes many of the controversial projects are important to national security.

“We have countries that depend on our technology and our defense suppliers and contractors,” Rep. Harris said. “We have to keep that business going.”

To that, Schweizer says, “At the end of the day, the defense budget should be about protecting our national security and serving the interests of our fighting men and women. It shouldn’t be about providing money to politically connected corporations in some Congressman’s district.”

The proposed military budget still must be passed by the House and signed by President Obama.