National defense bill includes key McCaskill priorities as Ranking Member on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
WASHINGTON – The annual national defense bill, which was approved this week by the U.S. Senate, includes two key amendments from Senator Claire McCaskill to increase the Defense Department’s contracting transparency and strengthen security at their buildings.
“While you’ll rarely see it splattered across the front pages, sitting down with my Republican colleagues to hash out details and come to agreements is one of the most important parts of my job—and that’s what we did on this bill,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The provisions I worked on will help increase transparency and strengthen national security.”
One provision requires that the Department of Defense (DoD) determine the “beneficial owner” of high security leased space in buildings that it rents. A “beneficial owner” is the company or individual who ultimately controls and thus profits from a building. However, that ultimate beneficial owner may be affiliated with a foreign government or a transnational criminal organization hiding behind numerous shell companies and front companies making it difficult to identify them. Without knowledge of the ultimate beneficial owner, DoD cannot guarantee the security of its facilities or communications therein, and may be inadvertently funding enemies of the United States.
A separate amendment increases transparency at DoD by requiring the agency to include spending estimates on service contracts in their annual and five-year budget reports. In FY 2014 for example, DoD planned to spend over $85 billion for service contracts – more than twice as much as it spent on goods such as armor, vehicles, and artillery for our troops – without first producing any estimates for what its service contract needs were and whether those needs could have been met more cheaply by doing the work in-house.
McCaskill has served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee since 2007. Recently, President Trump signed into law her bill with Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas to address the threat of agro-terrorism. She also called for answers from the DoD following a contract that left taxpayers on the hook for over $50 million in questionable costs, including seven luxury vehicles and $400,000 average salaries for significant others of corporate officers to serve as “executive assistants.” Her bipartisan bill to address drug and weapons trafficking through targeting transnational criminal organizations on the border was approved unanimously by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.