Melting Walls and Social Security Numbers for Dead People: Highlights From the New ‘Waste Watch’

Congressman Steve Russell (R-OK) is continuing the practice of former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) of putting out a periodic report highlighting wasteful government spending. Here is a sampling of items identified by the Congressman.

Congressman Steve Russell (R-OK) is continuing the practice of former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) of putting out a periodic report highlighting wasteful government spending.

“Waste Watch” is the name of Russell’s new report and is the first of what is promised to be an ongoing publication meant to provide oversight of government spending and reinforce the tradition started by Coburn.

“Every year we see money spent on waste, fraud, and abuse, and I want to continue to highlight some of these instances. Many of these projects were well intentioned, but end up costing the American people millions if not billions of dollars with unintended, but preventable consequences. Hopefully, by continuing to point out these financial mistakes, we can adjust our spending habits and find better ways to accomplish the same goals in a fiscally responsible and efficient manner,” said Russell.

So what are some of the items in the inaugural report? Complete details are available in the “Waste Watch” document included at the end of this article, but here is a small sampling taken from the report:

Melting Walls

In 2012, U.S. military authorities paid an Afghan construction firm nearly half a million dollars to build a “dry fire range” (DFR) for the Afghan Special Police to use in training exercises. Only four months after completion, however, the walls of the DFR began to disintegrate.

Afghan Government Bailout

Late in 2014, the State Department quietly transferred $100 million to the government of Afghanistan to help close an emergency budget gap. An Afghan official claimed that without the aid, the government would be unable to fully pay its 500,000 civil servants and feed 350,000 police and soldiers. To date, the State Department has not explained in detail why this bailout was necessary—or whether it will happen again.

Storing Useless Equipment

The Department of Defense (DOD) spent approximately $15.4 million in FY 2013 to store items that had been “zero-demand” for at least five years—meaning no one in the military had asked for that particular type of equipment for at least five years. Such equipment could range from circuit boards to tire tubes to giant gears used inside naval vessels.

Social Security Numbers for Dead People

According to Social Security Administration records, 6.5 million active Social Security numbers belong to Americans at least 112 years old. While very few of these were actually sent benefits payments, the report flags this as a problem because it opens the door for identify thieves to use the numbers to steal money from the government.

Waste Watch April 2015

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.