Pianos, snowboards, wine; federal spending jumps as agencies 'use it or lose it'


At the end of every fiscal year, a spending spree of billions of federal tax dollars occurs in a matter of days. But not all of that money goes to essential items. We found examples of federal purchases for wine, snowboards, pianos, guitars and fancy gym equipment.

We dug through thousands of federal contracts for September, the last month of the fiscal year. In just one month, the U.S. government spent more than $6.2 million dollars on gym equipment. That includes millions spent on CrossFit equipment, one of the country’s hottest fitness trends. The State Department specified in a contract for jump ropes that they specifically needed the brand endorsed by CrossFit star Rich Froning.

We also found orders for music equipment, like a $20,000 grand piano, Fender guitars and saxophones. Other contracts included $10,000 for snowboards and dozens of iPads.

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The end-of-year spending is part of a practice called “Use it or Lose it” budgeting. Federal agencies worry they will not receive as much money in the next year’s budget if they don’t spend every penny they currently have.

One out of every nine dollars spent by the federal government occurs in just the last seven days of the fiscal year, according to Adam Andrzejewski of Openthebooks.com, a government watchdog group.

“When the bureaucrats cannot even spend all the money that Congress is sending them, there's a problem,” Andrzejewski said.

We looked at spending in the nearly two months since the fiscal year ended. So far in October and November, only two contracts were issued for gym equipment, totaling $20,000. That is compared to the more than $6.2 million dollars spent the month before.

Openthebooks.com has been tracking government purchases as well. They placed an ad in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal listing more than one hundred examples of wasteful federal spending. Last year, they found thousands of dollars in year-end spending specifically on fidget spinners, liquor and wine.

“We identified in the last fiscal year that $50 billion dollars of contract spending went out the door in the last 7 days of the fiscal year,” Andrzejewski said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, introduced a bill that would award bonuses to federal employees who cut budgets. We first reported on that legislation two years ago, and so far it has gone nowhere.

We asked the Defense Department why they needed these purchases in a short period of time, and they referred us to individual branches of service. The Army, the largest spender among the military, has not yet responded to our questions.


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