Summer Lee Calls Out Reckless Defense Spending – More Taxpayer Dollars Go to Viagra, King Crab than School Lunches, Bridge Repairs, Homelessness 

(Washington DC) – In today’s Oversight Hearing on Defense Spending, Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) grilled the DoD’s Director of Contracting on its exorbitant spending on everything from shipbuilding, Viagra, and Alaskan King Crab under the NDAA the expense of school meals, repairs to roads and bridges, and housing for the most vulnerable.

Click here to watch Lee’s full questioning. Click here for full hearing.

Summer Lee: I want to thank the Joint Subcommittees for holding this hearing on the financial mismanagement at the Department of Defense. I think this is one of the few areas where I can agree with my Republican colleagues on the need and nature of this oversight. When we dedicate so many of our resources to our military while we nickel and dime our other programs, the least we are owed is transparency and accountability.

When our country spends more on defense than the next ten countries combined, we rightfully have high expectations for how that department functions.Yet year after year as we shovel billions their way – 15% of our total budget – we continue to be disappointed, and the American people are let down. 

Mr. Tenaglia, how much did the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act authorize for shipbuilding? 

Mr. Tenaglia: I do not have that particular figure the total amount of contract obligations 22 is over 400 million.

Summer Lee: For shipbuilding, it authorized $32.6 billion. Do you know how many school lunches that amount could provide to hungry children in America, where for the 1 and 8 children who go to school hungry that may be the only meal they get? All of them and then some. The school lunch program cost $28.7 billion in 2022.

Mr. Tenaglia how much, on average, does the military spend on Viagra each year?

Mr. Tenaglia: I don’t have that figured out

Summer Lee:  About $41.6 million.

Do you know how many bridges in my District of Pittsburgh could be repaired with that amount?

About 2, the rebuilding of the Fern Hollow Bridge only cost $25.3 million.

Mr. Tenaglia, how much did the Department of Defense spend on snow crab and Alaskan king crab in 2018?

Mr. Tenaglia: I don’t have that amount 

Summer Lee:  According to OpenTheBooks, it was $2.3 million.

Do you know how much the Pittsburgh City Council spends each year serving the county’s unhoused population?

Only $1.2 million, but they’re certainly not being served gourmet seafood.

How much is the F-35 Joint Program estimated to cost the federal government to produce, operate, and sustain over its lifecycle?

Mr. Tenaglia:Believe the GAO said that figure, I don’t have in front of me but we can get that for you.

Summer Lee:  $1.7 trillion, enough to completely eradicate student loan debt.

According to the Government Accountability Office, between May 2018 and October 2022, about one million F-35 spare parts worth $85 million were, quote “lost.”  Just vanished. 

Losing millions of dollars in assets is unacceptable. DOD themselves do not oversee or account for certain F-35 spare parts—only the prime contractors maintains this information. 

Mr. Khan, how does this lack of access to contractor information hinder accountability and DOD’s ability to provide accurate reporting in its audit?

Mr. Khan: It severely impact duties ability to be able to provide accountability over those assets.

Summer Lee: Mr. Tenaglia, going forward, what steps can your office take to improve contract requirements on the front-end to enable better oversight during the life of the contract?

Mr. Tenaglia: So we’re taking those actions now improving the clauses in the terms of conditions that go into contracts that communicate to contractors what the requirements are for property management, and the government first month property module that are described as the means by which contractors can communicate how they are disposition in property, how they’re receiving property and where we know where that property is throughout this life.

Summer Lee: In 2019, this Committee led a bipartisan hearing to hold military contactor TransDigm accountable for its exorbitant profits on DOD contracts for spare parts. This pressure led to TransDigm repaying DOD $16.1 million. 

Last Congress, this Committee held a second hearing, again on the excess profits that TransDigm received. I’ll note that my Republican colleagues did not join our call for TransDigm to repay its excess profits, even though TransDigm has a track record of fleecing American taxpayers. TransDigm likes to acquire companies with sole-source DOD contracts and then exploit its monopoly position by hiking up prices on crucial spare parts. 

Mr. Tenaglia, what policy changes is DOD considering to prevent price gouging on sole-source contracts and are there specific legislative reforms that would assist this effort?

Mr. Tenaglia: So as I indicated in my written statement, section 803 of the FY 23 NDAA helps us in that regard. It requires kind of it will require contractors to provide the transparent cost and pricing data that we need. In the case of commercial items. Likely that will be uncertified information, but same token our contracting officers need access to that information in order to establish fair and reasonable price.

Summer Lee: I urge the Department to do better. Your department accounts for 15% of our total budget. You need to be more mindful in not only how you spend American’s tax dollars but also how you account for it. Millions of dollars should not just be “lost” and failing audits should not be the norm. That’s unacceptable.

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