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Cohen: Spending Report Misleading

July 22, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A congressional report accusing the Pentagon of spendings millions of dollars on military projects never approved by Congress gives a misleading impression, Defense Secretary William Cohen said today.

The report by the House Appropriations Committee cites several examples in which the Pentagon failed to notify Congress about the redirecting of appropriated funds to projects not approved by Congress.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of the panel’s defense subcommittee, was quoted by The New York Times in today’s editions as saying the Pentagon is guilty of defying the will of Congress. The report did not say exactly how much money was allegedly misspent, but it included as an example an Air Force attempt to buy an $800 million military communications satellite without lawful authority.

``What do we have to do to make them understand what we mean when we say no?″ Lewis is quoted as saying.

Asked about the report, Cohen told reporters at the Pentagon that it overstated the problem. He said the report ``comes as somewhat of a surprise to all of us in the Pentagon,″ considering that of the more than 5,000 military projects managed by the Pentagon, only six are cited as being problems.

``That is quite a significant statement in itself, that about 99.9 percent of the time we seem to be doing things right,″ Cohen said. ``If there are any deficiencies or allegations of failure to comply with the law we will work with the committee to satisfy them as to the proper result.″

He added: ``We’re bound to have some deficiencies,″ given the enormous number of military programs.

Cohen, who spent 24 years in Congress as a Maine Republican, said that in some cases the language in laws worked out between conflicting House and Senate versions sometimes is ``left ambiguous.″

``So some of this may be attributed to ambiguity in terms of what the direction is between the two houses and the ultimate resolution of the different interpretations of what the requirements are for the Pentagon,″ he said.

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