April 27, 2021

Manchin Questions Witnesses On Business Practices, Waste Within The Department of Defense

Video of Senator Manchin during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Department of Defense’s management challenges and opportunities can be found here

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned a panel of witnesses on the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) business practices and management challenges and opportunities during the SASC hearing.

Senator Manchin questioned Mr. Peter Levine, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses and former DoD Deputy Chief Management Officer, on DoD’s practice that limits states’ ability to compete for business based on geography, often hurting rural states like West Virginia. 

Senator Manchin said in part, “Mr. Levine, my home state of West Virginia sits just outside of the National Capital Region which is often used in defense contract as a way to geographically limit which companies can compete for the work for the Department of Defense. This is known as a “place of performance” clause and has been a hindrance to West Virginia and a number of other rural states without a significant military or industrial footprint. Essentially preventing any company, an opportunity at increasing that footprint for businesses that don’t exist in the region identified by the place of performance clause. My question is, would you agree that there is need for a change and it would hurt the DoD if we don’t change it in highly urban, high-cost of areas that is a strain anyways? I have to assume that the higher cost is being passed onto the DoD and the taxpayers.”

Senator Manchin also asked Ms. Elizabeth Field, Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office, about the termination of the Chief Management Officer (CMO) position at DoD. The CMO position was created by the bipartisan Audit the Pentagon Act led by Senator Manchin and his friend, the late Senator Coburn (R-OK). In September, Senator Manchin called on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conferees urging them to save the CMO position, which is tasked with reforming the DoD to improve performance and increase accountability.

Senator Manchin continued, “Ms. Field, I was extremely disappointed that last year’s NDAA included the termination of Chief Management Officer position at the DoD. In light of the CMO position termination, I asked my staff to get on the phone with a number of experts, including yourself and Mr. Levine, to talk about how Congress can help shape cost reform at the DoD… One idea that was brought up by multiple people was the creation of another Undersecretary of Defense whose role would be similar to the State Department’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. My question is, while I don’t want to see more bureaucracy added to the DoD without appropriate authority driving it, are there any concrete ways that we can empower a position within the DoD to ensure business reforms are instituted without constant oversight at the congressional level?”

Senator Manchin has long advocated for increasing efficiency and minimizing waste within the DoD and questioned the panel on their ideas to address these issues.

“Every business and economy runs an inherent risk of generating waste but the clear difference here, in my opinion, is that the management of these vast programs within the DoD are not prioritized or incentivized with programs or audits that reinforce cutting waste. Furthermore, I feel as though waste in the DoD is far too often seen as an excused byproduct and what troubles me is that this accepted normality is then passed off to the American tax payer. So either one of you all, from a business reform perspective, what are the top concerns you have with the agencies that manage reform?” Senator Manchin continued.

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning of the Witnesses can be found here.