Ernst Says ‘Forget Area 51, Pentagon Waste Is Out of This World.’ DOD, Congress Get New ‘Squeal Award’

September 17, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

WASHINGTON—Department of Defense (DOD) officials could save millions of tax dollars by eliminating unneeded storage resources, says Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who did two things on Sept. 17 to potentially make it happen.

First, Ernst introduced a bill—the “Defense Storage and Supply Efficiency Improvement Act”—directing the DOD to cut the waste at its many warehouses and other storage facilities.

“When it comes to our military, it’s critical we make sure every single dollar we spend is used in the most efficient way possible,” Ernst said in a statement announcing the proposal.

“The DOD has an inventory so massive that it has proven difficult to keep track of a fire truck! Honestly folks, how do you lose a fire truck.”

Second, Ernst gave her latest Squeal Award to the DOD and Congress because the Pentagon has repeatedly asked for new authority to clean up its act, but Congress has said no.

Ernst regularly uses her informal award to focus media and public attention on the billions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse in federal spending.

“For years, DOD has requested the authority to address these costly inefficiencies,” Ernst said. “However, even though Congress refuses to grant formal approval to DOD to streamline its storage and supply chain, the Pentagon could use existing authorities to close some excess storage installations … so I’d say they’re still at fault in this as well.”

“Forget Area 51, Pentagon waste is out of this world,” Ernst said, referring to a satirical Facebook page posted earlier this year called “Storm Area 51” that gained media attention.

The page calling for a public invasion of the top-secret U.S. military facility generated millions of clicks within a few days of its posting, but its creator, Californian Matty Roberts, said it was meant as a spoof about space aliens allegedly being held at Area 51 in the desolate Nevada desert.

“There’s no excuse for hundreds of millions of dollars to go to waste for keeping underused and unneeded warehouses open. The Pentagon has asked Congress for the authority to rid themselves of some of these storage facilities, but they lack the authority to do it,” Ernst said.

The Ernst measure would give the DOD the needed authority to get rid of the unneeded warehouses, and it also would direct the DOD to submit a detailed plan for congressional review. It would include an estimate of resulting cost savings; an itemized description of how those savings are expected to be spent; a list of the specific facilities that will be subject to closure or disposal; an explanation of how closure or disposal of each facility will increase efficiency or enhance the functioning of the supply chain; and a certification that the overall effectiveness of the supply chain of the DOD will not be compromised or hindered by such consolidation.

Ernst believes consolidation of “these massively inefficient warehouses” would “save taxpayers in Iowa and across the country millions.”

A 2015 DOD inspector general report estimated that the Defense Logistic Agency, which manages the Pentagon’s primary warehouse and storage resources, unnecessarily stored more than 768,000 items that “far exceeded the historical demand.”

Ernst also pointed to a 2018 Government Accountability Office report that estimated DOD could save more than $500 million by simply “minimizing unnecessary overlap and duplication and more efficiently using its U.S. distribution centers.”

The inventory is located in more than 250 distribution centers, including many in close proximity to one another or even on the same military installation. Officials also sometimes use private facilities instead of available DOD resources.

Ernst has previously given her award to the DOD for programs such as the $208,000 joint funding from the Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation to study the “sociability” of 18 domestic breeds of dogs.