Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste

Tom Hinde

The Pentagon has buried an internal cost-cutting study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by the Washington Post. Pentagon leaders had requested the study to make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings into combat power and rebuild the nation's nuclear arsenal. But after the internal study documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved quickly to discredit and suppress the results.

The report was issued in January 2015 and identified "a clear path" for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The report did not require layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Rather, it recommended streamlining the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailing high-priced contractors and make better use of information technology.

The study was produced by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives and consultants from McKinsey and Company. The data showed the Defense Department is paying a staggering number of people, nearly 1,014,000 civilian and uninformed personnel, to support 1.3 million troops on active duty, the fewest since 1940. Fearing congressional backlash, the Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study to make sure the study findings couldn't be replicated. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

Similar Defense Department efficiency efforts/studies in 1997, 2010 and 2013 were never completed. The cost-cutting study may find a receptive audience with President-elect Donald Trump. He has promised a major military buildup paid for by "eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks."