Senator Tom Coburn issues an annual report on wasteful federal spending which he calls the “Wastebook,” and his office released the 2014 edition today. A video trailer for it can be seen in the above-embedded video player. The 2014 Wastebook contains a mind-numbing display of absurdities in government waste, from studies on “hangry” couples stabbing voodoo dolls to NASA’s “launchpad to nowhere.” However, the report also tallied the final costs of the Pentagon’s program to destroy $16 billion worth of potentially-usable ammunition that it no longer intends to use: $1 billion.
Back in April of this year, USA Today reported on the conundrum, though cost estimates at the time were unclear due to the Department of Defense’s poor record keeping on ammunition inventories. In fact, this ineffective accounting may have led to the ammunition over-purchases in the first place. USA Today cited a Government Accountability Office report which said that officials often buy excess ammunition when supplies are already sufficient “because the Army does not report information on all available and usable items.” The same GAO report also noted that the Army does not tell the DOD how many missiles it has in its stockpile, which “risks other services spending additional funds to procure missiles that are already unused and usable in the Army’s stockpile.” The DOD’s antiquated record keeping system requires other military branches to submit ammo requests to the Army via email, which then have to be printed out and typed into a different database, as the Navy, Air Force, and Marines have outdated inventory systems that can not share directly with the Army’s master list.
A GAO audit cited by Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook stated, “According to an Army financial statement in June 2013, the Army had about 39 percent of its total inventory (valued at about $16 billion) in a storage category for ammunition items that were excess to all the services’ requirements.” Some of the ammo is being decommissioned due to international treaties that ban their use. Coburn’s report noted that “the amount of surplus ammunition is now so large that the cost of destroying it will equal the full years’ salary for over 54,000 Army privates.”
Furthermore, the destruction of some of the ammo may be unnecessary. The 2014 Wastebook also pointed out, “…the Pentagon may be throwing away ammunition that could still be used. According to GAO, some of the material set for destruction has at times been found usable.”