According to a front-page report by the Washington Post, we can expect billions in waste with the current stimulus plan, thanks to a lack of control over the spending mechanisms in DC. The already-overburdened acquisition system won’t keep pace with the demands of the bill, resulting in lost resources on a scale that could fund entire departments for a year:
The Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan could end up wasting billions of dollars by attempting to spend money faster than an overburdened government acquisition system can manage and oversee it, according to documents and interviews with contracting specialists.
The $827 billion stimulus legislation under debate in Congress includes provisions aimed at ensuring oversight of the massive infusion of contracts, state grants and other measures. At the urging of the administration, those provisions call for transparency, bid competition, and new auditing resources and oversight boards.
But under the terms of the stimulus proposals, a depleted contracting workforce would be asked to spend more money more rapidly than ever before, while also improving competition and oversight. Auditors would be asked to track surges in spending on projects ranging from bridge construction and schools to research of “green” energy and the development of electronic health records — a challenge made more difficult because many contracts would be awarded by state agencies.
The stimulus plan presents a stark choice: The government can spend unprecedented amounts of money quickly in an effort to jump-start the economy or it can move more deliberately to thwart the cost overruns common to federal contracts in recent years.
So it’s not enough that the bill itself would contain massive waste and pork. We also will spend the money badly, apparently like we did with TARP, and likely to the same effect. It would make sense to pull this bill back to break it up into more efficient pieces, and focus on real emergency spending and tax cuts in the near term. Perhaps that way we can ensure that we don’t waste tens of billions of dollars by hysterically throwing money without the resources to manage it properly.
It’s not the only waste in the new, “compromise” bill, as Tom Coburn’s office points out:
$2 billion earmark for FutureGen near zero emissions powerplant in Mattoon, IL
- $39 billion slush fund for “state fiscal stabilization” bailout
- $5.5 billion for making federal buildings “green” (including $448 million for DHS HQ)
- $200 million for workplace safety in USDA facilities
- $275 million for flood prevention
- $65 million for watershed rehabilitation
- $200 million for public computer centers at community colleges and libraries
- $650 million for the DTV transition coupon program
- $307 million for constructing NIST office buildings
- $1 billion for administrative costs and construction of NOAA office buildings
- $100 million for constructing U.S. Marshalls office buildings
- $300 million for constructing FBI office buildings
- $800 million for constructing Federal Prison System buildings and facilities
- $10 million to fight Mexican gunrunners
- $1.3 billion for NASA (including $450 million for “science” at NASA)
- $100 million to clean up sites used in early U.S. atomic energy program
- $10 million for urban canals
- $2 billion for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrid cars
- $1.5 billion for carbon capture projects under sec. 703 of P.L. 110-140 (though section only authorizes $1 billion for five years)
- $300 million for hybrid and electric cars for federal employees
- $198 million to design and furnish the DHS headquarters
- $255 million for “priority procurements” at Coast Guard (polar ice breaker)
- $500 million for State and local fire stations
- $180 million for construction of Bureau of Land Management facilities
- $500 million for wildland fire management
- $110 million for construction for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- $522 million for construction for the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- $650 million for abandoned mine sites
- $75 million for the Smithsonian Institution
- $1.2 billion for summer jobs for youth
- $412 million for CDC headquarters
- $500 million earmark for NIH facilities in Bethesda, MD
- $160 million for “volunteers” at the Corp. for National and Community Service
- $750 earmark for the National Computer Center in MD
- $224 million for International Boundary and Water Commission – U.S. and Mexico
- $850 million for Amtrak
- $100 million for lead paint hazard reduction
Some of these projects might well be worthy — but they’re hardly emergencies, nor will they result in immediate job creation.