Op-Ed: US defense department and spending on toilet tissue

Posted Dec 30, 2013 by Ken Hanly
The United States military spends millions on toilet paper. The brass worry that perhaps the sequester cuts and demand that the Pentagon lower spending will put pressure on them to buy and use less.
An aerial view of the Pentagon in Arlington  VA
An aerial view of the Pentagon in Arlington, VA
The former Under Secretary of the Navy, Robert Work, complained that if the full Budget Control Act ran its course into 2023, "We will go back to 1975 where I'm buying toilet paper for my Marines". Former Rep. Allen West a Republican from Florida warned also that there should be no return to the bad old days before 9/11 when "we did not have enough money to get toilet paper for some of our soldiers". The recent budget deal no doubt saved US soldiers from this disaster and so far budget austerity has not impacted on strategic tissue reserves. The Armed Forces of the US seem prepared to protect their rear.
There was an impending crisis however at an Air Force Academy in Colorado during the government shutdown as the person who ordered supplies had been furloughed. However, that was a minor problem compared to the furlough of 330 workers who offered specialized instructional programs and the cancellation of 60 special classes. Back in the days of the Vietnam war apparently toilet paper was rationed reportedly to only 19 squares a day for regular troops. No doubt officers needed more. So how much does the Pentagon spend on toilet paper?
From 2000 to 2010 the Pentagon bought an average of $2 million "toiletry paper products" annually. Suddenly in 2012 the figure jumped to $130 million. No doubt liberal conspiracy theorists will attribute this to the fact that most of the toilet tissue bought by the military comes from Georgia Pacific owned by the Koch Industries. The Koch brothers fund many right wing and libertarian causes. This time it seems a large part of the increase may come from creative accounting systems used by the Pentagon.
The new higher expenditures includes items such as $2.7 million lightbulbs and $ 9.6 million of canning supplies which hardly seem appropriate for wiping oneself. Even so there remain about $58 million in paper products that one could conceivably wipe with. The Defense Department was still a long distance away from Homeland Security that in the same year 2012 had an expenditure of $151 million in the same category.
The real numbers spent on toilet paper in either Homeland Security or the Defense Department may never be known. This is not because the data is classified but that the books of these two are so messed up: "The Defense Department is one of just two agencies (Homeland Security is the other) that are keeping the bean counters waiting: As the Government Accountability Office dryly notes, the Pentagon has "serious financial management problems" that make its financial statements "inauditable." Pentagon financial operations occupy one-fifth of the GAO's list of federal programs with a high risk of waste, fraud, or inefficiency.
Critics also contend that the Pentagon cooks its books by using unorthodox accounting methods that make its budgetary needs seem more urgent. The agency insists it will "achieve audit readiness" by 2017. "
We do know that in 2012, Koch Industries had a contract with the Department of Defense worth $51,278,354.