Haley Barbour’s Overlooked Warning About Pentagon Waste

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Gov. Haley Barbour commented earlier this week that there exists no federal agency or department — including the Department of Defense — whose budget is beyond reproach and cannot be streamlined.

(After his speech, Barbour made comments to reporters about Afghanistan — remarks which largely overshadowed his broader points about the DOD).

But Barbour’s larger point about spending is a sentiment shared by everyone from Don Rumsfeld to Robert Gates to Rand Paul — though some sensationalized the remark to portray the Governor as anti-war and opposed to national defense spending.

Here’s what Barbour said regarding the DOD:

Anybody who says you can’t save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon. We can save money on defense and if we Republicans don’t propose saving money on defense, we’ll have no credibility on anything else.

(An individual with ties to Barbour said his comments had less to do with gutting national defense than rooting out government largess and waste, wherever it’s found.)

To be sure, this is a legitimate issue.  Thursday’s Washington Post revealed the news that a new audit of DOD expenses found the Pentagon  overpaid a billionaire oilman upwards of $200 million on a handful of defense contracts.

A GAO report last year revealed the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency — tasked with the acquisition and management of military equipment — was ordering more than half what was required. The agency brought in about $7 billion in supplies, though half that inventory remained in a warehouse to gather dust.

It’s a sad fact of the modern news cycle that we too often obsess over cheap controversy and pay scant attention to issues of deep substance.

The controversy over Haley Barbour’s Afghanistan remarks (and speculation regarding whether or not he was drawing a sharp contrast with the other likely GOP presidential candidates) is a fun part of the “horse race” aspect of campaign coverage, but they should not obscure Barbour’s other remarks about waste at the DOD.

Matt K. Lewis