PARKERSBURG -Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and eight other senators Thursday joined an effort to audit the Pentagon.
The Audit the Pentagon Act is intended to cut fat, not muscle, from the Department of Defense, Manchin said. The bill creates incentives and ways to force the Pentagon to conduct an audit, he said.
"I truly believe that the United States of America has, and must continue to have, the greatest military force in the world. But with our Department of Defense paying contractors four times what we're paying the Secretary of Defense while considering laying off our servicemembers, it's clear that our priorities are out of balance," Manchin said. "We need to make sure that we're using our limited resources in the best way possible to support the men and women in uniform. One of best ways to do that is to shed light on the Department of Defense budget, without jeopardizing our national security secrets."
Lead sponsor is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
"By failing to pass an audit, the Pentagon has undermined our national security," Coburn said.
Other cosponsors are Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; Claire McCaskill, R-Mo.; and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is holding an energy policy forum Monday at West Virginia University.
The forum convenes at 10 a.m. in the Assembly Room 101-A&B, National Research Center for Coal and Energy.
This bill creates incentives to meet an audit schedule where the Pentagon will have increased authority to reprogram funds without congressional approval, with notification still required, and the Pentagon will tell Congress which reports are obsolete, which will save taxpayer dollars by reducing unneeded bureaucracy.
Among provisions, no new major weapon system unless needed to fill an urgent national security need can progress past research and development until an audit is done.
In other congressional news, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was disappointed Republicans blocked a vote on his Cybersecurity Act of 2012.
"We worked hard for more than three years and now because a handful of Republican senators are afraid of crossing the Chamber of Commerce's beltway lobbyists, we may end up with nothing on this urgent issue," he said. "The only thing more upsetting than the chamber sinking this bill is the attempt by some to demand a vote on repealing health care coverage for families across the country and new preventive care offerings as a condition for voting on cyber security. To combine those two issues is a cynical, political ploy."
Manchin introduced an amendment to the Cybersecurity Act to ensure infrastructure has enough backup power. The amendment, supported by Rockefeller, would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to determine whether both public and private infrastructure have enough backup services to endure both natural and man-made disasters.
"In the aftermath of the severe storms that hit West Virginia and the entire East Coast this summer, we learned that our nation's infrastructure is extremely vulnerable. Now imagine if the outage was because of an intentional attack," Manchin said. "Up and down the East Coast, our electric grid was crippled by the storm because there is no backup plan that would keep the vital necessities of life running during these major storms."