This past week, POGO released an unpublished government report that indicated that while defense spending is dramatically rising, oversight staffing levels have remained "nearly constant" since 2000. The report confirmed that the effect has been "gaps in coverage in important areas, such as major weapon systems acquisition, health care fraud, product substitution, and Defense intelligence agencies." The New York Times wants action: "Congress should be willing to spend a little more to find out how much of the taxpayers' dollars are being wasted. That is what we call a sound budgeting decision."
It's clear that we need to spend additional resources on contract administration and oversight, but one shouldn't lose sight of the fact that procurement oversight activities return long-term savings. In POGO's 2002 investigative report, Pick Pocketing the Taxpayer: The Insidious Effects of Acquisition Reform, we highlighted the cost of downsizing the oversight community. POGO found that "The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), part of the DoD Inspector General's office, detects, investigates, and prevents fraud, waste, abuse, and other improper acts in the Defense Department. Investigative recoveries by the DCIS totaled $810 million in FY 2000, while the annual budget was only $59.7 million, meaning that the DCIS produced nearly $14 in savings for every dollar spent in 2000." There are many business leaders who would love to see that kind of return on a dollar spent!
Additionally, oversight restores integrity in our government, and it goes a long way toward funding agencies that have seen, or will see, significant decreases in their budgets. Oversight might keep certain programs afloat when they would otherwise be abandoned.
-- Scott Amey