August 30, 2012

Manchin: DOD spending largely contractor expenses | The Martinsburg Journal

CHARLESTON - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin held a roundtable discussion Wednesday in order to review and assess ways in which Congress can cut military spending while continuing to strengthen the nation's defense.

Manchin's remarks were broadcast to several remote locations, including one in Martinsburg.

During the talk, held at the National Guard Tire Rebuild in Charleston, Manchin compared the cost efficiency of hiring private contractors for overseas work, versus investing funds in military organizations such as the National Guard.

"In 2010, the entire Army National Guard cost less than 11 percent of the total Army budget," he said. "The National Guard can carry out both domestic and overseas missions with only 5 percent of the total base budget of the Defense Department."

Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, said SIGIR audits and investigations of Department of Defense spending showed a significant lack of accountability on the part of private contractors. He also said the U.S. should better integrate civil-military relations.

"(We need to) create a capacity within our government that ensures that we do plan and we do operate jointly," Bowen said. "And that we hold our departments accountable for how they spend the ever-more limited resources available to protect our national security interests."

The DOD's budget has increased from $300 billion to $700 billion during the past 10 years. While the budget has doubled, the force capacity of the U.S. has not, Bowen said.

"We're spending more in real dollar terms on contracting than we ever have in our country's history," he said.

With a one-to-one ratio of military personnel to contractors, statistics cited in the discussion stated that $350 billion of the DOD budget is spent on contractor salaries, which can be up to $763,000 annually.

"That's almost twice the pay of the President of the United States," Manchin said.

Manchin pointed out that the contractors of whom he and Bowen were speaking were not those in manufacturing, but those working in overseas security capacities.

"The contractors that we have in manufacturing, the people working day-in and day-out aren't making six figures or more. That's coming from a whole different arena," he said.

Gen. James Hoyer of the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston voiced concern over potential cuts to guardsmen salaries. He urged the senator to continue the push to consider alternative spending cuts.

"They shouldn't even be looking at reducing National Guard pay when they can look at reducing overhead cost in other areas," Hoyer said.

Amidst talk of sequestration, military spending cuts are at the forefront of debate. This would require military spending to be cut by $500 billion during the next 10 years. Manchin said those cuts could easily be made when considering contract costs.

"We're winding down wars. We're changing our whole tactical force, and we should be getting rid of contractors, and we can't cut 50 billion a year," Manchin said.

"That's the first I have heard the senator or anybody mention ... just cutting the contractors by a small amount compared to what they're getting right now can easily take care of that," said Col. Roger Nye of the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg.

Nye agreed with Manchin, that the Guard can do things efficiently and cost-effectively. The 167th had three airplanes doing national missions daily, many of which are retrograde operations to remove equipment from Afghanistan. The 167th also provides airlift for the nation.

"We're doing that with the minimum number of people on active duty," Nye said.

Gen. Allen Tackett, a former W.Va. guard chief, pointed out the competence and skill the National Guard has displayed over the years.

"We have been able to accomplish every mission we've been assigned overseas. Plus we've had more domestic missions than any time in the history of this nation. And we've done it all," Tackett said. "It's not a time to cut the National Guard."

"If they were to cut the uniformed personnel and the acquisition and regeneration of older aircraft and things like that by that kind of money, it would be big," Nye said.

By:  Rachel Molenda