Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has released his annual wastebook report, a compilation of what he believes to be some of the most egregious examples of wasteful spending at the federal level.
“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” said Dr. Coburn.
He added, “Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown. This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low.”
So what are some of the wasteful spending examples that made the list this year? A few examples follow below:
Mortgages for Millionaires
There is now a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) home loan program created to assist those with low and moderate incomes in rural areas that has been expanded to cover homes in resort areas. This year more than 100 individuals or families received loan guarantees for $500,000 or more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase a residence in Hawaii. If these new homeowners later cannot afford their new homes, it’s no problem; the federal government will protect the banks from losses by repaying 90 percent of the loans.
Mass Destruction of Weapons
As the U.S. war effort in the Middle East winds to a close, the military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of useable vehicles and other military equipment. The military has decided that it will simply destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment rather than sell it or ship it back home.
Googling for the Public
One federal agency is charging other offices and taxpayers to provide government reports that are largely available free of charge on the Internet. Home to more than three million records, the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) collects “government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information” and reports and sells them to other federal agencies. Only it turns out most of what it sells can also be found for free on the Internet with little effort.
Paying People to Lie Around and Do Nothing
NASA is paying 20 individuals $18,000 each to literally do nothing more than lie around for a couple months. Subjects of NASA’s Countermeasure and Functional Testing study “will spend 70 days lying in bed” with their “body slightly tilted downward (head down, feet up).”
Agency Head Asked to Be Fired (Only His Request Was Ignored)
“I have concluded that [my agency] is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice,” wrote Mike Marsh, the Inspector General for the Denali Commission. Marsh said the commission’s mission had “run its course” and that it was time to cut it off from federal funding. Congress ignored his request and the agency continues to receive federal funds. No hearings were held about the future of the agency or even to defend the money it had spent or work it has done over the past 15 years.
HUD’s Apartments for Deaf Seniors
After spending $2.6 million on needed apartments for the deaf, government lawyers now say the Tempe, Arizona based Apache ASL Trails (Apache) apartment facility violates the law because it has too many deaf residents. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the apartment facility does not do enough to also attract non-deaf residents. However, HUD funded this award winning project “knowing” the property was designed and built “for seniors who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind.”
Paying Fort Hood Shooter Nadal Hasan
While the families of the survivors and victims were fighting to receive military benefits, the Fort Hood shooter Major Nadal Hasan was cashing his paycheck. Since the shooting, Hasan has received over $278,000 in military benefits because the Military Code of Justice doesn’t allow a soldier to be suspended until found guilty.
State Department Buys Fans
Hoping to increase its reach with an international audience, the State Department spent $630,000 “buying fans” for its Facebook and Twitter accounts. The effort was undertaken by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), which is responsible for “sustained conversations with foreign audiences to build America’s reputation abroad.”
DHS Overtime Fraud
With the assistance of whistleblowers, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) determined DHS employees routinely abuse Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, a program which can only be used by certain DHS employees, and labeled the problem as“pervasive.” OSC found nearly $9 million in improper overtime claims in just six DHS offices.
Keeping the Lights on at Empty Federal Buildings
In 2010, GAO found several buildings that were not only empty, but were set for demolition and yet were maintained at taxpayer expense. One such building owned by the Veterans Affairs Administration cost $20,000 a year to operate. Each year, the government spends at least $1.5 billion maintaining properties that it no longer needs.
Unused DoD Facility in Afghanistan
As troops in Afghanistan were closing bases and sending military equipment back home, DOD was finalizing construction of a state-of-the-art, 64,000-square-foot command HQ facility on Camp Leatherneck that has never been occupied, and will likely be torn down, or turned over to the Afghan government as the facility will likely fall outside the camp’s new security perimeter.
The Infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”
An Alaska state agency is pushing forward to clear an expensive right-of-way for a controversial billion dollar bridge project that will likely never be finished. The result is that thirteen homes and businesses that are squarely in the current right-of-way of the Knik Arm Bridge will be demolished. The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) has already spent $2.9 million to buy properties including several homes and an apartment building.
IRS Conference in Vegas
The IRS allowed some employees to attend a training conference in Las Vegas on official time. While the union said it would pay travel costs, IRS documents show that staffers were told to charge the “Citibank Government Travel Charge Card,” and salary would still be covered by taxpayers under Official Time arrangements.
To read the complete list, check out Wastebook 2013.