Friday, July 12, 2013
An internal email from a Department of Defense agency calls its budget “too large” while at the same time urging colleagues about the importance of spending “100% of our available resources.”
The June 27 memo, obtained by the Washington Post and sent by the Defense Information Systems Agency, said, “Our available funding balances remain large in all appropriations — too large to spend” on just unfunded requests.
But while the authors of the email—Deputy Chief Financial Executive Sanna Sims and procurement director Kathleen Miller—decried the rare problem of too much funding, they also urged colleagues to spend every cent.
“It is critical in our efforts to [spend] 100% of our available resources this fiscal year,” said the internal email, which goes on to say that “hopefully” contracts and grants are processed “reflecting…a reduction in our available resources.”
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Gregory declined to comment on the authenticity of the memo, but did not dispute it.
In a statement, Gregory wrote, “The Department does not condone spending simply to exhaust allocated funds. In this time of fiscal austerity, it is important that we continue to seek ways to reduce costs and limit unnecessary spending.”
The DISA has a budget of $9.4 billion that comes from both congressional appropriations and the Defense Working Capital Fund.
The DISA memo comes amid the across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, which have been forcing Washington agencies to cut back. Furloughs at the Defense Department—which include a 20 percent pay cut for the next three months for up to 650,000 civilian employees—will begin affecting the department Monday.
A September 2012 email from another Defense Department agency warns against the budget tactic of “use it or lose it,” as it is known in Washington circles.
“For the past several years, Congress has used unobligated balances as a means to reduce our budgets,” Pentagon’s comptroller Robert Hale and undersecretary of acquisitions Frank Kendall wrote. “The threat that funding will be taken away or that future budgets will be reduced unless funds are obligated is a strong and perverse motivator.”
The 2012 memo continued, “We risk creating incentives … to expend funds primarily to avoid reductions in future budget years.”