The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Pentagon found $125 billion in waste. Now a GOP chairman is asking other agencies what they’ve found.

Rep. Greg Walden, accompanied by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, speaks at a Jan. 6, 2015, news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Walden, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is asking agencies under his jurisdiction to identify waste in response to a Washington Post report. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In 2015, a Defense Department advisory panel delivered a startling report: A “clear path” existed for the Pentagon to cut $125 billion in spending over five years without reducing military forces or firing administrators.

What was even more startling: senior defense officials moved to discredit and suppress the Defense Business Board report, as The Washington Post reported last last year.

Now a House committee is asking other federal agencies whether they’ve done any similar studies that have not seen the light of day.

Letters from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, were sent Friday to the Cabinet-level departments under the panel’s jurisdiction: The departments of Commerce, Energy, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The letters cite The Post’s reporting on the Pentagon waste study, and asks each of the departments for answers to a series of requests by March 10.

Among them: Copies of any internal study done by the department in question “similar to the internal study produced to the Department of Defense,” including reports examining whether savings from new efficiencies in business operations could be redirected to mission priorities.

If no such studies exist, the departments are asked to review the Pentagon report and “provide a written response on any lessons learned from this report that could be applicable to your department/agency.” The departments are also invited to respond in detail if they are already taking action on recommendations made in existing reports or otherwise “taking initiatives to achieve department-wide budget savings in administrative efficiencies.”

We look forward to working cooperatively and constructively with you in streamlining administration of programs and achieving significant budget savings,” the letters read.

The four departments in question are all waiting for their new leaders, nominated by President Trump, to be confirmed by the Senate. Trump has repeatedly promised to crack down on “tremendous waste, fraud, and abuse” in the federal government, though to date he has focused his attention on federal contracts — such as deals to replace Air Force One and build F-35 fighter jets — than the more prosaic work of wringing business efficiencies out of agencies.