WASHINGTON — Seeking truth in budgeting when it comes to the Navy and key weapons systems like ships, the Government Accountability Office is questioning if certain budgetary maneuvers are impeding Congressional oversight and decision-making.
According to a new GAO report, Congress is concerned that the Navy deliberately underfunded programs that use a special contracting method called "multiyear procurement."
In Fiscal Year 2022, the Navy requested funding for only one guided missile destroyer and put the second one on its "unfunded priorities" list. The GAO says that cost taxpayers an additional $33 million.
"I can't blame the Navy for playing the shell game when Congress continues to put the money on the table and the Navy has figured out it can win the game," said Old Dominion University economist Bob McNab.
He said it's up to Congress to fix the problem.
"Congress can very easily take money away from the Navy, but they're not doing it. They're giving the Navy more money and then complaining about the Navy not being transparent, and then giving them more money," he said.
Local lawmakers want to see the Navy use multiyear procurement requests to accurately reflect the service's most important priorities.
"It's kind of like a cat and mouse game, saying, 'Well, we'll take it out because we know Congress is going to put it back in,'" said Rep. Rob Wittman, (R-Virginia, 1st District), who serves as Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and as Co-Chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus.
He added: "I think the Navy needs to be more transparent."
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia, 3rd District) agreed, saying it's important that the Navy gets its budget requests in order.
"First of all, these multi-year contracts are extremely important to maintain stability, maintain predictability, maintain subcontractors staying open. If you're going to start varying from that, Congress needs to know so that we can do oversight," he said.