The rants of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, focusing on the topic of waste, fraud and abuse in our government over the past four decades are legendary. Unfortunately, they are, all too often, ineffective.
Back in 1985, Grassley, then new to the Senate, was pointing out Pentagon expenditures of $450 for hammers and $640 for toilet seats. Decades later, the problem remains, but the numbers have grown … exponentially. In 2015, the issue was $43 million for a gas station in Afghanistan. Last year it was a new $115,000 airborne toilet for the C-5 aircraft.
Grassley’s latest target — certainly a deserving one — is the Department of Defense and, more specifically, the relationship of the Department of Defense with the TransDigm Group Inc.
Earlier this year, the DoD’s Office of Inspector General completed a report, “Review of Parts Purchased from TransDigm Group Inc.”
In Senate floor remarks Wednesday, Grassley noted the IG examined one contractor: The TransDigm Group. In total, it analyzed 113 contracts covering the period from January 2015 to January 2017. It reviewed 47 spare parts the DoD purchased from the contractor.
In just two years, the IG found TransDigm overcharged the Pentagon by $16.1 million out of a total of $29.7 million in contracts.
“The reasonable profit threshold is considered to be 15 percent or below,” Grassley said. “The IG found that TransDigm earned excess profits on 46 of 47 parts sold to the Pentagon. On 17 of those parts, TransDigm earned more than a 1,000% profit. Remarkably, the highest profit percentage was 4,436%.
“That’s what I call fleecing the American taxpayer,” he said. “This report is just one snapshot of a much larger problem. It’s a spit in the ocean when you consider the enormous $716 billion defense budget.”
While Grassley was obviously upset by the waste, he was more upset with the DoD’s Office of Inspector General. He said in his view, the IG leadership team showed no urgency whatsoever to fix the problem.
He noted that the IG had made a few “paltry” recommendations. For starters, it directed contracting officers to request voluntary refunds for the excess profits.
Drawing on a liberal dose of Midwest common sense, Grassley commented, “Let me suggest, I wouldn’t advise taxpayers to hold their breath on a voluntary refund. The IG recommendations have no teeth. They are insufficient. And what’s worse, the IG leadership team claims no single DoD official is responsible for price gouging.”
As Grassley noted, it’s a pattern that has repeated since the Revolutionary War when contractors sold rotten meat to the Continental … since the Civil War when profiteers sold ammunition filled with sawdust and shoddy shoes and horses to the Union Army.
Grassley has asked acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan to outline the specific steps he is going to take to stop profiteers from pilfering taxpayer-supplied funds.
For Iowa’s senior senator, it’s the umpteenth verse of the same song. But it remains a question that needs to be answered.