“directly employ 34,168 active duty members and civilian jobs.”
The Navy’s Ohio-class submarines transport 70 percent of America’s nuclear arsenal. They were first built in the 1970s and are rapidly approaching retirement age. In April 2014, the Navy released specifications for 12 new subs at an estimated total cost of $58.8 billion, or $4.9 billion per sub. But in December 2014, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the total cost would exceed $90 billion; $12.4 billion for the first sub and $6.6 billion for each additional one, or an average of $7.5 billion per sub, which is 53 percent higher than the original estimate.
While the need for the new subs is not in dispute, Congress usually provides such funds through the acquisition and procurement account in the defense authorization and appropriations bills. But in 2014, Rep. Forbes sponsored a new “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” which would run afoul of the standard budget process and keep the new sub program off-budget. Rep. Forbes claimed in a June 2015 Politico article that the subs require this off-budget account because their cost could overwhelm the Navy’s budget and crowd out other procurement programs. This includes Forbes’s own district, which according to his website encompasses “our nation’s most important military assets and installations,” which “directly employ 34,168 active duty members and civilian jobs.”
Faced with a similar national security need to modernize outdated equipment in 2002, another member of Congress attempted to be equally creative in keeping a major procurement program off budget. Then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) tried to set up a $21 billion off-budget lease to procure new Air Force refueling tankers to replace an aging fleet. After this concept was roundly criticized by groups like CAGW and members of Congress, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the tanker procurement was put back into the Air Force’s normal budget.
Apparently, Rep. Forbes has ignored the outcome of this prior attempt to undermine the budget process. He has argued that the submarine project “is a very big lift, and it has to get done.” Therein lies the trouble with budget gimmickry: “It has to get done” can be used to justify off-budget spending for virtually any program, for any purpose, on either side of the political aisle. Rep. Forbes would have Congress meander down a slippery slope to fiscal disorder, where the taxpayers’ money would be frittered away through furtive funding schemes with limited oversight and accountability.
In order to enable the Department of Defense to spend the taxpayers’ money more effectively, Sen. McCain has proposed changes in defense acquisition that would devolve procurement authority from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense to the acquisition executives of the individual services. The plan also provides incentives for containing cost overruns and institutes penalties for reckless spending on programs.
CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “Rep. Forbes’s attempt to circumvent the normal process does a disservice to taxpayers and should be quashed. In order to pay for essential programs, less critical programs should be set aside and waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement should be eliminated. Budget gimmicks should never be the solution.”
For his attempt to hide $90 billion worth of submarines and undermine the budget process, CAGW names Rep. Randy Forbes its June Porker of the Month.
Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.