The defense department is starting the first agency-wide financial audit in its history, "the Pentagon’s newsservice said this week," announcing that they are finally going to follow through with something they promised to do for years.
Beginning in 1996, all federal agencies were mandated by law to conduct regular financial audits. However, the Pentagon has never complied with that federal law. In 20 years, it has never accounted for the trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds it has spent, in part because "fudging" the numbers has become standard operating procedure at the department of defense, as revealed in a 2013 Reuters investigation by Scot Paltrow, which detailed the illicit tasks of a 15-year employee, "Linda Woodford [who] spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of defense’s accounts."
"Every month until she retired in 2011," Scot J. Paltrow wrote for Reuters, "she says, the day came when the navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Financeand Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAs accountants set about preparing monthly reports to square the navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.
And every month, they encountered the same problem. The numbers were missing. The numbers were clearly wrong. The numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or from which congressional appropriation it came from. A lot of times, there were issues with numbers being inaccurate. We didn’t have the details... for a lot of it.- Woodford says
Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed. But meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.- Rafael Degennaro, director of audit at the Pentagon, told the Guardian earlier this year
In what will likely be an immense and highly politicized dog show, the Pentagon is now claiming this will start immediately.
"It demonstrates our commitment to fiscal responsibility and maximizing the value of every taxpayer dollar that is entrusted to us," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.
"Beginning in 2018, our audits will occur annually, with reports issued on Nov. 15," the defense department’s comptroller, David L. Norquist, said, noting the audits will now be an annual task.
As npr reports, as for how the audit would work, Jim Garamone of the official DOD news agency reports that the department’s office of the inspector general has "hired independent public accounting firms to conduct audits of individual components—the army, navy, air force, agencies, activities, and more—as well as a departmentwide consolidated audit to summarize all results and conclusions."
Exactly what will come of this enormous feat of counting the money spent on spreading the American empire remains a mystery. However, what is not a mystery is the trillions that have "gone missing" as a result of the Pentagon’s refusal to comply with 20 years of audits.
As tftp reported at the time, a department of defense inspector general’s report, released in 2016, left Americans stunned at the jaw-dropping lack of accountability and oversight. The glaring report revealed the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion dollars' worth of army general fund transactions and data, according to a report by the Fiscal Times.
According to the report by the Fiscal Times:
An increasingly impatient Congress has demanded that the army achieve "audit readiness" for the first time by September 30, 2017, so that lawmakers can get a better handle on military spending. But Pentagon watchdogs think that may be mission impossible, and for good reason...
The defense finance and accounting service (dfas), the behemoth Indianapolis-based agency that provides finance and accounting services for the Pentagon’s civilian and military members, could not provide adequate documentation for $6.5 trillion worth of year-end adjustments to army general fund transactions and data.
The DFAS has the sole responsibility for paying all DOD military and personnel, retirees and annuitants, along with Pentagon contractors and vendors. The agency is also in charge of electronic government initiatives, including within the executive office of the president, the department of energy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. "
While there is nothing in the IG’s report specifying that the money has been stolen, the mere fact that the Pentagon can’t account for how it spent the money reveals a potentially far greater problem than simple theft alone. Also, other reports put the toll of missing money at upwards of $10 trillion.
The accounting errors and manipulated numbers, though obviously problems in their own right, highlight a far greater problem for the defense department than just bad record-keeping and wasteful spending habits. In reality, they are a representation of the poor decision-making and lack of oversight and accountability that plague our nation’s government as a whole, and this audit, however promising on the surface, will likely prove to be more of the same.