Ernst seeks to expose failed promises

Wants public to know about federal project costs, delays

There was a time when the federal government could get things done on time and within budget.

In the early 1940s, the Pentagon, which remains the world’s largest office building in terms of floor area, was constructed in just 16 months essentially on schedule and with an acceptable price tag. American taxpayers have a right to expect government undertakings to reflect that type of conscientious performance. Sadly, extraordinary waste and almost unbelievable delays have become the norms for endeavors assigned to federal bureaucrats.

One of the reasons Iowans sent Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate is that she pledged make federal officials take more seriously their obligation to use hard-earned tax dollars wisely and with frugality. With that in mind, the Iowa Republican has just introduced the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act.

“There are far too many taxpayer-funded projects that are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule,” Ernst said in a statement announcing this legislative initiative. “The Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act will require the disclosure of the cost and timeline of these federal projects, bringing overdue accountability and transparency to the process, which will allow us to identify problems before they become a bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars.”

This legislation would require the federal Office of Management and Budget make an annual report to Congress regarding the status of every federally funded project that is $1 billion or more over budget or more than five years past its originally anticipated completion date.

Ernst’s goal is to provide Congress with prompt warning about projects that are not progressing as promptly as anticipated when they were approved or are in danger of being far more expensive than was initially expected. She sees this as a crucial management tool that will make it easier for Congress to provide the oversight of federal expenditures that is a key part of its job.

There are legitimate reasons why a project could cost more or take longer than planned. There are also, however, developments such as poor or wasteful contractor performance or bureaucratic delays that require prompt intervention. Ernst wants to make sure that Congress has at its disposal the information needed to track large government expenditures properly. She also wants that information to become available before avoidable waste has become a scandal.

Ernst’s office provided an array of examples of federal funds being used on projects that have become nightmares for taxpayers. For example, a subway tunnel in New York City that has received $2.7 billion from the U.S. government was originally expected to be finished in 2013. Its completion date is now put at 2023. The cost, which is not all federal money, is nearly three times the original estimate. Sadly, the list that could be assembled of similar outrages is very long indeed.

The Messenger applauds Ernst for crafting this important legislation. It deserves strong bipartisan support. We commend the senator on remaining faithful to the pledge she made to Iowa voters in 2014. She is looking out for American taxpayers. We wish more of her colleagues in Washington felt motivated to do so. Fortunately, Iowa’s senior senator, Charles Grassley, shares this commitment to guard against overspending. The two make a powerful Iowa team in the U.S. Senate.