Bush makes move to end waste, fraud and abuse

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted February 19, 2001

Conservatives have spent most of their adult lives dedicated to the proposition that federal money spent on health, education and welfare is largely wasted because of the bureaucracy. The bureaucratic system is structured so that waste is inherent and fraud is inevitable. Countless studies have proven our point. Dozens of books have driven home these truths. There are conservatives who have made names for themselves just by writing, lecturing and now, of course, appearing on radio and television talk shows on this one set of issues: that money given to the federal health education and welfare bureaucratic structure is money down the drain.

Fine. It is all true. We have convinced much of the public that it is true as well. Presidential careers have been launched on this basis. Ronald Reagan might not have been elected President were it not for that welfare queen.

Why is it then that we can turn around and take these same federal dollars and give them over to the Pentagon and suddenly the waste, fraud and abuse that we know is inherent in the bureaucratic structure suddenly disappears? What is true of HHS is true of the Pentagon in spades.

So along comes President George W. Bush. He suggested during his presidential campaign that if elected he would shore up the badly neglected military. There is no question that the military under Bill Clinton has become a disaster area. He spread our forces too thin. He assigned the military too many tasks best left to civilian personnel. He destroyed the morale of the military not only with his policies on gays and women but with inadequate pay and housing, leaving many young recruits to fend for themselves with food stamps.

So the expectation was that President Bush was going to pour big bucks into the military with a big supplemental appropriations bill immediately. None was forthcoming. Right away, whispers of "traitor" could be heard among the right in the recesses of the Republican cloakroom. Letters of objection were immediately sent to Bush by Republican Senators and Congressmen. Even some hawkish Democrats spoke out. Even the normally polite Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner was sharply critical of the White House.

Why? All of this because President Bush has ordered a top to bottom review of how and where the money is being spent. You see Bush's Vice President, Dick Cheney, was an original member of the Military Reform Caucus. That Caucus, formed in the 1970's with everyone from Sen. Gary Hart (D- Colo.) to Rep. Newt Gingrich ( R-Ga.) and Cheney in between was dedicated to the proposition that the military should be subjected to the same sort of scrutiny as other federal programs. Moreover, that Reform Caucus advocated less expensive and more flexible weapons systems. That drove the top brass in the Pentagon crazy.

Unfortunately for Cheney, when he became Secretary of Defense he had to preside over the Gulf War. He never got to implement any of the reforms he had previously been interested in. But now is another story. Before pouring billions down the drain, Bush via Cheney has ordered this top to bottom review and has placed a very competent person in charge of it as well.

More money will indeed be spent on the military, as well it should be. But hopefully the money will be spent in the right places and not on waste, fraud and abuse. Rather than condemning Bush for ordering this review, we should be applauding him. This is absolutely the right move.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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