U.S. Will Spend $30K to Translate American Books into Kyrgyz
April 18, 2022
A new grant notice from the U.S. State Department shows that the U.S. will spend $30,000 to translate books into Kyrgyz for distribution in Kyrgyzstan.
The grant states that the program focuses on “the translation and distribution of American books in the Kyrgyz language,” and, “offers a unique and popular way to connect with Kyrgyz audiences, particularly rural youth, while supporting the growth of the Kyrgyz language across the country.”
Its goal is to strengthen relations between Kyrgyzstani institutions and Kyrgyz speaking residents, as well as to, “increase Kyrgyz-language speakers’ access to diverse sources of information, including recent research, analysis, and popular contemporary literature by American authors."
Appropriate themes of books for this program include Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Music, Environmental Conservation, Business Empowerment and Social Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, and Rural to Urban Migrations.
Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia. After the fall of the USSR, it adopted Kyrgyz as its official language, but Russian is still a common native language. About 4.1 million people speak Kyrgyz, while about 2.5 million people speak Russian. However, Kyrgyz is losing popularity among younger generations in urban areas like Bishkek, so this project hopes to promote the Kyrgyz language.
While curbing the influence of Russian culture in former Soviet republics may be in the strategic interests of the U.S., the fact remains that most Americans couldn’t find Kyrgyzstan on a map. Our tax dollars should go primarily to rebuilding our infrastructure, providing for our national defense, and funding our institutions, not sent to a country halfway around the world so they can enjoy American books.
HHS Had Over $2B in Questioned Costs, $16.2B in Funds Put to Better Use
April 19, 2022
Between April 1 and September 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services accrued over $2 billion in questioned costs, along with over $16.2 billion in funds that could have been put to better use, according to an inspector general report (pgs. 79-83).
Executive agencies are required to provide a semi-annual report to Congress for oversight. In their most recent report, the HHS claims that, over a six-month period, they found $2.09 billion in questioned costs for which no management decision had been made by the end of the reporting period. Questioned costs are defined by the Inspector General Act as an alleged violation of law or contract, a cost without adequate documentation, or a cost with an unnecessary or unreasonable intended purpose.
Additionally, according to the report, the Inspector General found over $16.2 billion in funds that could have been put to better use. This includes funds that could have been used more efficiently if management followed inspector general recommendations.
While the $2 billion in questioned costs is bad enough, losing $16.2 billion in funds that could have been put to better use is outrageous. All it would have taken to save $16.2 billion was for HHS to implement the recommendations delivered to the agency. Instead, by choosing to ignore them, taxpayers get stuck with the bill.
Imagine if a Fortune 500 company was told by consultants that they could save $16 billion if they followed steps that were outlined for them. It would be insane for them not to implement them; the work of finding the inefficiencies has been done for them. But when the government is spending your money, it’s a different story.
Throwback Thursday: Army Spent $38M for Gas Masks with No Improvements
April 21, 2022
Between 1969 and 1982, the U.S. Army spent $38 million – $111 million in 2022 dollars – to make improvements to gas masks, all for a final product that was no better than what they started with.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave the U.S. Army his Golden Fleece Award for this bureaucratic ineptitude.
In 1969, the Army’s Material Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM) began work on a new type of gas mask to protect soldiers, as well as pilots and tank commanders, from deadly poisonous gasses and biological weapons.
Thirteen years later, operational testing revealed only one improvement from the previous model: enhanced visibility. The tradeoff for this enhanced visibility was a shorter average time until failure (46 hours as opposed to a previous 1617 hours). Other issues included more fragile lenses, a silicon frame that would deform in hot climates, and filters that were no better than the ones used thirteen years prior.
When it was revealed at an “In Process Review” to military leaders, most objected to its use, including the Marine Corps and the Army Logistics Evaluation Agency. Unfortunately, despite poor reviews, DARCOM insisted that production continue.
Sen. Proxmire also points out that while most examples of government waste are humorous, it’s important to recognize that in many cases, there are real consequences to abject mismanagement. In this case, troops were forced to enter combat situations with outdated technology. If resources had been diverted from this failing project earlier on, perhaps there could have been improvements in other equipment that could have kept our troops safer.
Congress Included $9B in Earmarks in Spending Bill
April 22, 2022
When Congress passed its $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, with House approval in less than 24 hours, they were able to cram 5,000 earmarks totaling $9 billion into the final version of the bill.
According to the New York Times, that $9 billion total includes 3,682 earmarks totaling $5 billion from Democrats, 1,014 earmarks totaling $3.4 billion from Republicans, and 266 earmarks totaling $609 million on a bipartisan basis.
According to the New York Times, some of the largest earmarks in this bill include $132 million to the Alabama State Port Authority from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and $121 million for an aircraft maintenance hangar at a South Carolina Marine Corp Base from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Shelby, the Ranking Member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, netted a cool $551 million in total earmarks for his home state, the highest total amount out of all Members of Congress.
Earmarks, the currency of corruption, are special expenditures designated for each Member of Congress’ state or district. That way, each member can go back to their constituents and show them the money they brought back. Most of the funds are wasted on pet projects for the powerful, like tearing down vacant hotel buildings.
Each Member of Congress must disclose their earmarks on their website. Open the Books has mapped a previous round of Congressional earmarks.
Out-of-control earmarks are a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike take advantage of handouts to their district or state, and spending bills continue to grow as a result.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.