Late November is a great time of year for a variety of reasons...there is the crisp fall air, the gatherings with your extended family for Thanksgiving that begin innocently and end with restraining orders and death threats and, of course, Senator James Lankford's annual report on government waste. And, just like last year, the 2017 report on "Federal Fumbles" is filled with truly infuriating examples of government waste that are sure to get your blood boiling...here are a couple of examples:
First up is a $30,000 grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts for a play, dubbed "Doggie Hamlet" by Lankford, that entailed a group of "artists" running around a field in New Hampshire apparently taunting a group of presumably very confused sheep.
As evidenced in previous editions of Federal Fumbles, the American public’s love for William Shakespeare has sometimes translated into unusual and unnecessary federal expenditures. For instance, tens of thousands were spent to support a production of Silent Shakespeare in 2015. However, the strangeness of those fumbles pales in comparison to a $30,000 NEA grant to support a production of Doggie Hamlet.
Doggie Hamlet actually includes humans yelling or running toward very confused sheep and dogs. The production, which does not include any actual lines from Hamlet, is conducted outdoors in a 30-by-50-foot field in New Hampshire. The play is described as “a beautiful and dreamlike spectacle weaving instinct, mystery, and movement into an unusual performance event."
Many people view art subjectively, and there are likely many who would enjoy watching this play. However, with $20 trillion in national debt, it is difficult to explain to taxpayers in Oklahoma or Montana—even the people who work with sheep daily—why $30,000 was spent for a few people to run around a field yelling at sheep. The NEA should refocus its efforts and its support on grants that advance the arts and our national interests.
And then there is a $75,000 grant provided to a university to allow for the creation of "digital puppets."
Generations of young people grew up watching The Muppets and Sesame Street with famous puppets like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the indomitable Cookie Monster. These shows and puppets have shaped millions of lives throughout several generations. But does that influence translate into a federal obligation to spend taxpayer dollars to create 3-D, electronic versions of puppets so more people can play with them?
Earlier this year, the NEH provided $74,851 for a university to utilize 3-D technology to create electronic versions of puppets so viewers can “manipulate and ‘play,’ through game-like technology, with a puppet or other performative object held in a digital archive.” The funding will be used to scan up to 15 puppets into a system that will enable viewers to control puppet functions and facial expressions either on a desktop computer or virtual reality device.4
Of course, the examples above are small programs which Liberals will undoubtedly tell you should simply be dismissed as they have no impact on the overall budget...which is precisely how most American households manage their finances...'sure, it's just $40 Junior so you go right ahead and buy that digital sack of acorns on your Ice Age Village app...no problem'.
So, for those focused on the larger examples of government waste, how about this massive upgrade to the Air Force's Air Operation Center that was eventually scrapped due to cost overruns and "complexity issues," but only after $745 million was already spent.
In 2007, the world welcomed the fifth Harry Potter movie and the iPhone and said goodbye to the great singer Luciano Pavarotti. At the same time, the US Air Force began a 10-year project to upgrade its Air Operations Center, a control hub where air, space, and cyberspace operations around the world are overseen by the Joint Forces Air Component Commander. Unfortunately, delays and cost overruns led to the termination of the uncompleted project in 2017 after the Air Force estimated spending $745 million.
In 2013, the Air Force estimated to Congress that the upgraded Air Operations Center would be operational in 2016 at a total development cost of $374 million. Late in 2016, the Air Force updated its estimates and projected completion in 2019 at nearly double the original cost. According to the DOD’s IG, the cost and time delays occurred because “Air Force officials underestimated the complexity of the program” and the contractor did not have enough trained employees to do the job. On top of that, the IG found the contractor made things worse by using “a time consuming, error-prone” method of building the necessary software manually, instead of using an automated system.
Like many government problems, this sounds more complex than it really is. The Air Force needed to update a system, but due to its own poor planning and contractor mistakes, American taxpayers spent hundreds of millions on a system that was eventually scrapped.
With that, below are 97 other examples of government waste in 2017 that are sure to cause a slight spike in your blood pressure...