In late December, the Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a rally in Storm Lake, Iowa. There, he called for the Department of Defense (DOD) to undergo an audit. He accused the agency of wasteful spending and fraud while failing to take care of soldiers who consequently have to depend on food stamps. Sanders declared that making the government more efficient and cost-effective does not mean cutting programs that serve the needy like Medicaid or food stamps.
“What it does mean is taking a hard look at an agency which receives $600 billion per year where there is an immense amount of waste and fraud,” he said. Sanders went on to explain that on September 10, 2001, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had given a speech in which he accused the DOD of being unable to account for several trillion dollars. The speech received little attention for it was quickly overshadowed by terrorist attacks the very next day. Sanders added that, to his knowledge, the DOD is the only government agency that could not withstand an independent audit. Given the size of the DOD’s budget and the waste and fraud within it, its spending should therefore be investigated before the government even considers cutting social programs that serve needy Americans.
Sanders noted that nobody within the DOD seems to know where their money is going. “You go to them and ask how many private contractors we have. Well, they really don’t know. It’s so complicated, a huge complicated system.” Sanders noted that many of the deals with defense contractors had resulted in cost overruns. Meanwhile, soldiers are constantly being redeployed while their families are on food stamps. 6,700 soldiers have died in military operations in Iraq and elsewhere, while 500,000 have returned home with brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
This not the first time Sanders has called for a government agency to be audited. In 2009, he had worked with both Democrats and Republicans to successfully pass a requirement for the Federal Reserve Board to be audited. Last month, Sanders issued a statement expressing his displeasure with the Federal Reserve Board’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade.
He called it “bad news for working families” since it comes at a time when “millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages.” At the beginning of the rally, Sanders had walked to the podium to the Bruce Springsteen song “We Take Care of Our Own.” The chorus, “wherever this flag’s flown, we take care of our own,” was a perfect accompaniment for a rally regarding the needs of military families. Sanders’ speech struck a chord with his supporters, who gave him a standing ovation.