December 06, 2022

Warren Calls on Pentagon to Rein in “End-of-Year Money Grab”

DoD Requested $50 Billion in Unfunded Priorities, Distorting the Budget Process and Resulting in Wasteful Spending

“These games must stop… If the Department of Defense wants to demonstrate to the American people that they are responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, you must ensure the Department significantly improves its budget and financial management practices. That starts with significantly reducing the size of unfunded priorities lists”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, criticizing DoD’s most recent “unfunded priorities list,” which asked for an additional $25 billion, including $19.3 billion for inflation. The DoD’s budget asks contradict assurances Senator Warren received in October that DoD would not need blanket inflation-based policy changes. Senator Warren criticized the Departments use of these lists to lobby Congress to increase an already excessive budget, calling on Sec. Austin to curtail the use and size of these lists in next year’s budget submission and to carefully review and reassess the list it has already submitted to Congress. 

“This latest wish list the Department provided to Congress appears to be an end-of-year money grab, designed to short circuit the administration’s budget and the congressional appropriations process. DoD components appear to be playing a shell-game with American taxpayers, purposely leaving out popular programs in initial budget requests, and then later attempting to jam them through Congress without having to make the hard choices involved in the traditional budget process,” wrote Senator Warren.

For fiscal year (FY) 2023, DoD asked for $773 billion in its annual budget request and an additional $24 billion for its “unfunded priorities.” These unfunded priorities risk distorting the budget process and can lead to wasteful spending, allowing DoD contractors tod use concerns about inflation to price-gouge the military. 

To rein in wasteful spending, Senator Warren filed two bipartisan amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2023 that would eliminate the statutory requirement to provide these lists and require DoD to find offsets for any proposed spending increases.The amendments were cosponsored by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Mike Lee (R-UT). 

“These games must stop. As the Secretary of Defense, you have the authority and responsibility to end DoD’s misuse of the congressional budget processes and eliminate taxpayer waste,” continued Senator Warren. 

Senator Warren has been a leading voice in making sure that vigilant oversight is conducted over Pentagon spending: 

  • In September 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Warren questioned General Anthony Cotton, nominee for STRATCOM commander, about how he would handle so-called “unfunded priorities” that become wish lists to boost the Pentagon’s budget.
  • In June 2022, Senator Warren introduced the bicameral Stop Price Gouging the Military Act, which would enhance DoD’s ability to access certified cost and pricing data. Part of Senator Warren’s legislation was incorporated into the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act reported to the Senate.
  • In May 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Warren criticized Army leaders for reducing its military housing budget request and instead asking for those funds in their unfunded priorities list.
  • In April 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, DoD Secretary Lloyd Austin III agreed with Senator Warren that the proposed DoD budget should not increase by $90 to $400 billion, stating that the additional billions in funding was not necessary.
  • In July 2020, in response to questioning from Senator Warren in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said big defense contractors cannot divert the increased progress payments towards share buybacks, dividends, or executive salaries.
  • In May 2020, Senator Warren wrote to the Department requesting clarification on how the Department would prevent profiteering following a recent change to increase payments to contractors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.