Horrendous deficits in the federal budget are virtually certain to continue well into the future no matter which party controls the White House or Congress. Some people mistakenly believe that this problem can be resolved easily by simply eliminating wasteful and fraudulent spending. Unfortunately, the scale of the deficits that are threatening to be so burdensome for future generations of our countrymen makes such relatively painless solutions insufficient
Vigorous action against waste and fraud would, however, be a productive way to move forward the process of achieving budgetary sanity.
Recent action by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley to highlight the troubling findings in 16 audit reports is an excellent example of the vigilance more public officials should display. The audits documented major waste and misconduct at the U.S. Department of Defense
During a hearing Senate Budget Committee hearing, the Iowa Republican gave a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that reviewed the audit findings. He asked the secretary to make certain that the offenders are punished and changes are implemented to prevent similar wrongdoing in the future.
"If I had two words to characterize what I found in those 16 reports, they would be 'scandalous' and 'disgraceful,'" Grassley said in the letter.
The senator is calling for a strong response to the negative audits.
"The officials who are responsible for what happened must be held accountable and improper payments need to be recovered," he said. "Until there are meaningful consequences and real penalties for such gross waste and misconduct, the culture of the organizations involved will never change. Unabated waste of the taxpayers' money will continue."
Grassley is legitimately worried that bureaucrats at the Pentagon might do little more with the negative audit findings than file them away without initiating needed action. That's why he is asking Panetta to launch a top-level review of defense spending waste.
This newspaper agrees with Grassley. It is imperative that the secretary take the lead in making sure that the $100 million per year spent to produce Pentagon audits does not in itself wind up as taxpayer dollars spent for no public benefit.
It is important that public officials who support a strong national defense not be shy about criticizing waste and wrongdoing in Pentagon programs when they are discovered. No one can seriously challenge Grassley's credentials as an advocate of necessary military expenditures. That makes his critique of the Department of Defense especially powerful. It should encourage Panetta to act on the audit findings without fear of being charged with compromising national security if he moves forcefully to make those who have behaved improperly accountable for their wrongdoing.
The Messenger applauds Grassley's vigilance. Panetta should accept the senator's recommendations and act on them aggressively. That would be an excellent example of the bipartisan cooperation much-needed in our nation's capital.