Deficit Reduction Rumble: So-Called Super Congress Must Be Transparent

08/10/2011 11:02 am ET | Updated Oct 10, 2011

People are generally relieved that the debt ceiling crisis has passed, although most on both the right and the left are not happy with the formula. But as I think about what is about to happen over the next four months, I am increasingly worried that we are going to see the worst of Washington on display.

Although most people are comfortable that federal spending can and should be cut, we are now entering into a no holds barred cage fight for federal dollars where the government programs that finance powerful special interests will have more than just a leg up -- they will have the equivalent of a brutal flying knee kick.

Government contractors are already planning their full-page ads to defend their programs in Beltway publications and at Capitol Hill Metro stations. It will take serious analysis by those without self-serving interests to provide an honest road map for federal spending. We at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), along with our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense, have identified nearly $600 billion that can be saved over the next 10 years by reducing wasteful spending in national security programs. We believe these measures will both enhance our national security and significantly take a bite out of the out-of-control spending spree the Pentagon has enjoyed.

Chief among these savings is our proposal to reduce the government's over-reliance on service contractors, which account for more than a third of the Department of Defense's discretionary spending. Taxpayers could also save tens of billions of dollars by cutting unnecessary nuclear lab construction projects, and by reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Western Europe.

However, if my worst fears are realized, we are unlikely to see anything close to a merit-based process. And the best way to combat the "it's who you know" Beltway phenomenon is to make EVERYTHING public about the process.

And I mean EVERYTHING. POGO, along with our colleagues, have come up with a list of transparency standards that should be met by the new Committee. Who is working for the Joint Select Committee on Debt Reduction -- the so-called Super Congress? What is happening in their meetings? Who is lobbying the members? What analyses are they basing their numbers on?  What are they voting on?

The only way we can have any confidence that this process is not just theater with predetermined winners is for the public to have a front-row seat during the Super Congress' deliberations. We need to be in those meeting rooms so we can see what is happening and make sure decisions are based on merit and not on who can afford the most expensive and well-connected lobbyist.  Let's ensure this process works us all towards having more confidence in our government.