By: Daniel Moritz-Rabson
The Pentagon is expected to spend more than $111 billion in three months as it rushes to use the remainder of its $700-billion budget before the end of the 2018 fiscal year on September 30, Defense One reported.
As of early August, the Defense Department had only allocated contracts worth $177 billion out of an expected $574 billion in discretionary spending, the outlet said, citing analysis by The Pulse.
"The spending spree is the product of the omnibus budget agreement signed six months late in March coupled with funding increases of $80 billion for defense," Defense One reported. "The shortened time frame left procurement officials scrambling to find ways to spend the money."
Mara Karlin, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek that the end-of-year spending was motivated by attempts to judiciously allocate money, delayed Congressional funding appropriations and concerns that unused money would be cut from future budgets.
"As with any of us, you’re trying to spend your funds responsibly. If you’re thinking about a big purchase, you know what kind of money you’re taking in, you know what kind of balance that looks like.... You make sure that you are allocating funding throughout the year in a way that makes sense," Karlin said. If Congress "allowed the department to hold on to the funding and spend it in the next fiscal year," agencies could use money in more prudent manner.
She noted that the last-minute use of funds also put "immense pressure" on contractors.
The rush to spend all money remaining at the end of the fiscal year to avoid diminished budgets in the future occurs across government agencies, according to Forbes.
Toward the end of last fiscal year, the government dished out tens of millions of dollars on office equipment, surveillance, weapons for nonmilitary agencies, alcohol and electrical supplies. Sixty-seven federal departments used almost $50 billion in the last week of fiscal year 2017, according to OpenTheBooks, a nonprofit promoting government transparency. The Army spent $6,600 on fidget spinners, $35,000 on an arcade machine and $62,000 on snowboards and paddle boards. In addition, defense contractors were paid $11 billion in seven days, according to a piece published by OpenTheBooks CEO and founder Adam Andrzejewski and former Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn.
"Unfortunately, most of the federal government adheres to a philosophy of ‘use or lose it.’ This only results in waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending as the fiscal year comes to an end," Senator Rand Paul said in a statement to Newsweek. "Since entering the U.S. Senate in 2011, I have made a point to only use the resources I need. That’s why, in the last seven years, I have returned over $3,500,000 back to the treasury."