In Washington, uniform envy costs taxpayers

 When it comes to wasting taxpayer dollars, people tend to rightly look at tens of billions in improper payments at the federal level, or fraud, or using DHS to protect a pumpkin festival. Now, The Washington Post reports on tens of millions of dollars of waste on something very basic: military uniforms:

In 2002, the U.S. military had just two kinds of camouflage uniforms. One was green, for the woods. The other was brown, for the desert.

Then things got strange.

Today, there is one camouflage pattern just for Marines in the desert. There is another just for Navy personnel in the desert. The Army has its own “universal” camouflage pattern, which is designed to work anywhere. It also has another one just for Afghanistan, where the first one doesn’t work.

Even the Air Force has its own unique camouflage, used in a new Airman Battle Uniform. But it has flaws. So in Afghanistan, airmen are told not to wear it in battle.

In just 11 years, two kinds of camouflage have turned into 10. And a simple aspect of the U.S. government has emerged as a complicated and expensive case study in federal duplication.

Why did this happen? Mostly because of pride issues in certain military leaders. That pride has cost well over $12 million.

But there’s more! The Post reports the Government Accountability Office has found four separate agencies that ask consumers if they want credit card assistance. There are also 209 programs for science and math, dollars spent on a helium program for zeppelins, $11 billion “wrongly refunded” by the IRS, and $1 billion spent on “bank fees on non-interest bearing accounts.”

And just for fun, here’s what the city of Los Angeles wasted its citizens tax dollars on:

The City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works apparently spends $48,000 per year on a program called “L.A. CityWorks,” which airs on the city-owned channel. The controversial short, which some have called “racist” and “insensitive,” was part of this city-funded initiative.

The video, shot at a Japanese Garden in Los Angeles, depicts the cross-dressing “geisha” man speaking in a mock Japanese accent. “The Japanese water park is a beauliful, beauliful site,” he said with a bizarre misappropriation of the stereotypical Asian mispronunciation of “R” sounds as “L.” The actor leads two interested men on with a coy, flirty attitude, before ultimately fulfilling the video’s purpose: explaining how the Japanese Garden uses recycled water.

The city, appropriately, pulled the video from YouTube, and offered a full apology for its contents (but not for funding it in the first place).

All of this waste is nothing compared to the cost of unconstitutional programs in the federal government, yet they are emblematic of the problem. If fewer loopholes existed, the IRS may not have made an $11 billion boondoggle. If Washington simply did less, the $1 billion spent on accounts would not have slipped by the accountants. The list is endless.

As the budget battles continue, our Members of Congress need to know we want them to cut spending, not increase the debt ceiling so more of our money can be wasted by the bureaucracy. Call, e-mail, and fax frequently as the debt ceiling discussions heat up.