Federal Bureaucrats Set ‘Use-It-or-Lose-It’ End-of-Year Spending Spree Record in 2019

August 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2020

Federal departments and agencies shelled out more than $12.2 billion on Sept. 30, 2019, the last day of that fiscal year, capping the biggest year-end spending spree ever, according to a new watchdog report.

“Monday, September 30, the last day, broke all records: $12.2 billion. Friday, September 27, the second-to-last business day, recorded $11.6 billion,” according to the report issued Aug. 20 by Open The Books, a Chicago-based nonprofit government watchdog. The data was compiled from usaspending.gov.

The report also found that “$51 billion flowed to federal contractors during the last nine days of the fiscal year, an amount that exceeded [any one of] all other months (October 2018 through August 2019). The only days under $1 billion in procurement were on weekends or the Labor Day holiday.”

“In [September] 2019, federal agencies spent $91 billion on 642,567 transactions, an average of $3 billion on 21,418 transactions each day. During a 2-year period, the year-end spending spree totaled $188 billion (Sept. 2018 & 2019),” the report continues.

The federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

“Agencies worry that spending less than their budget permits might prompt Congress to appropriate less money in the next fiscal year. To avoid this, federal agencies embark on an annual spending spree to avoid the impression they can operate on less,” the report states.

“This ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ September spending phenomenon happens every year. However, reforms are being proposed and given consideration both at the White House and in Congress.”

The top 10 use-it-or-lose-it contractors included mostly defense companies, led by Boeing with $4.3 billion, United Technologies with $3.6 billion, Lockheed Martin with $3.5 billion, Northrop Grumman with $2.8 billion, BAE Systems with $1.7 billion, General Dynamics with $1.6 billion, Raytheon with $1.5 billion, Leidos with $1.3 billion, Booz Allen Hamilton with $1.2 billion, and B.L. Harbert with $806 million.

The report stated that the September 2019 spending spree “amounted to a de facto economic subsidy for the D.C. beltway” because $24.9 billion in contracts went to firms based in the national capital region.

Multiple counties in Maryland and Virginia are among the top 10 counties ranked by median household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, due largely to generous federal employee salaries and benefits, and the growing largesse available in government contracts.

Those contracts buy everything from the world’s most sophisticated fighter aircraft (F-22 and F-35) to alcohol, consultants, toilet paper, and thousands of other goods and services.

Open the Books’ report broke out the variety of goods purchased as follows: “Alcohol ($502,026); guns and ammunition at non-military, non-law enforcement agencies like the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Education (DoED) ($1.5 million); games, toys, and musical equipment, including pianos, flutes, and French horns ($3.7 million); lobster tail and snow crab ($4.6 million); golf carts, motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles ($6.2 million); books and pamphlets ($23 million); workout and recreation equipment ($25.1 million); batteries ($53 million); vehicles ($253.8 million); public relations and marketing ($456.8 million); and furniture ($457.8 million).”

The $457.8 million spent on new furniture could be a magnet for congressional investigators looking for ways to reduce bloated federal spending, in the wake of the $6 trillion authorized just since March to deal with the pandemic caused by the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have worked from home since mid-March as a result of the pandemic.

In a related development, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told HHS Secretary Alex Azar that his department was second only to the Department of Defense for end-of-year spending.

“HHS spent a total of $5.7 billion on contracts in September 2019, the second-highest among all federal departments,” Ernst told Azar in an Aug. 18 letter that was made public Aug. 20.

“This included more than $30 million on ‘advanced all-hazards stockpile ventilators’ and nearly $8 million on ‘collaborative influenza vaccine innovation centers.’

“These types of purchases certainly advance the department’s mission far more than the $11 million expended for office and household furniture or $37,000 paid for reserved parking spaces.

“In the weeks ahead, therefore, I would urge the department to give special attention to prioritizing pandemic essentials above all else. Now, more than ever, is not a time to be wasting money splurging, especially when targeting funds to urgent immediate needs could literally save lives.”

The Iowa Republican introduced legislation in 2019 that would end September spending explosions by federal officials.

“The End-of-Year Fiscal Responsibility Act would limit an agency’s spending in the last two months of the fiscal year to no more than the average it spent per month during the preceding 10 months,” Ernst said at the time.

“This limit only applies to discretionary spending. Entitlement payments, like Social Security and Medicare, and national security-related expenditures would be exempt and unaffected.”

A companion bill to the Ernst proposal was introduced in the House by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also has expressed support for a similar ban on DOD sprees, according to the Open the Books report.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc