The federal government found a way to spend $97 billion in a single month last year, of which more than $61 billion can be attributed to the Pentagon.
It’s not a new phenomenon. In the last month of every fiscal year, federal agencies work to spend all that’s left in their annual budgets. If they don’t, the agencies worry they’ll be appropriated a smaller share by Congress next year, hence the “use-it or lose-it” spending sprees.
Rather than spend money on frivolous items, federal agencies like the Defense Department should admit their offices can be run on less, according to Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.
OpenTheBooks is a nonprofit aimed at bringing transparency and efficiency to the federal budget. They released a report this March detailing fiscal 2018 use-it-or-lose-it spending habits.
The military spent the most, by far, which isn’t surprising, Andrzejewski told Military Times.
“Let me clear: Congress is the problem here, not DoD or other agencies,” he said. “Historically, both parties tend to look the other way at Pentagon waste. This is a shame because the troops and taxpayers suffer. Lower priority items get funded while mission critical needs are short-changed.”
Andrzejewski calls the spending spree “Christmas in September” for the federal government. And last fiscal year was the worst his group has tracked so far.
One of the stand-out purchases by the Pentagon included a $9,341 Wexford leather club chair purchased from the Interior Resource Group, according to the report.
Federal agencies also like to splurge on luxury food items before the end of the fiscal year, according to the report. The Pentagon spent $2.3 million on crab, including snow crab, Alaskan king crab, and crab legs and claws, as well as another $2.3 million on lobster tail.
Andrzejewski said that in some cases, like the surf-and-turf, the spending rarely trickles down to the grunts.
“Some observers have raised concerns that this year’s annual spending binge could be the biggest yet.”
. The $97 billion spent on contracts in September 2018 marks a 16 percent increase from fiscal 2017, and a 39-percent increase from fiscal 2015, according to OpenTheBooks.
In the final week of the year, federal agencies spent $53 billion, more than they spent in the entire month of August, according to the OpenTheBooks report.