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Hedges writes: "Although it's required to by law, the DoD has never had an audit, something every American person, every company and every other government agency is subject to."

The Pentagon. (photo: AP)
The Pentagon. (photo: AP)

The Pentagon Has Never Been Audited. That's Astonishing

By Thomas Hedges, Guardian UK

20 March 17


The president proposes a $52bn increase in military spending while reports of waste and abuse pile up. An investigation must scrutinise spending

n Thursday, Donald Trump released a preliminary budget proposal that calls for a $52bn increase in military spending. But just last December, a Washington Post investigation found that the Pentagon had buried a report that outlines $125bn in waste at the Department of Defense. That gap between lawmakers’ calls to blindly increase spending at DoD versus those of internal auditors to curtail its waste isn’t a new problem, and it’s one that, without pressure, won’t be resolved any time soon.

That’s because although it’s required to by law, the DoD has never had an audit, something every American person, every company and every other government agency is subject to. The result is an astounding $10tn in taxpayer money that has gone unaccounted for since 1996.

“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” the director of the Audit the Pentagon coalition, Rafael DeGennaro, told the Guardian. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”

Legislation in the early 1990s demanded that all government agencies had annual audits, but the Pentagon has exempted itself without consequence for 20 years now, telling the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that collecting and organizing the required information for a full audit is too costly and time-consuming.

In the meantime, the GAO and Office of the Inspector General (IG) have published an endless stream of reports documenting financial mismanagement: $500m in aid to Yemen lost here, $5.8bn in supplies lost there, $8,000 spent on helicopter gears that really cost $500.

As reports and news articles about waste and abuse at the Pentagon pile up, prominent voices from across the political spectrum – from Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz to Grover Norquist – are expressing support for a full audit of DoD. In a 2013 video message to the whole of the defense department, then secretary of defense Chuck Hagel told employees that the department’s non-compliance was “unacceptable”. During this past election cycle, both the Democratic and Republican platforms called for the Pentagon’s audit.

But despite broad support, the issue has remained stagnant in Washington. “I really can’t figure it out,” Democratic party representative for California Barbara Lee told the Guardian. When legislators get around to tackling waste, they “go after domestic agencies and community organizations, but they never go after the Pentagon,” she said. Since 2013, she has introduced bipartisan legislation that would financially penalize DoD for not receiving a clean audit.

“Quite frankly, they should have been audit-ready decades ago, after Congress passed the initial audit law in the early 90s,” Republican representative for Texas Michael Burgess, co-sponsor of the Audit the Pentagon Act along with Lee, told the Guardian. People have “accepted that the Department of Defense is expensive and that that’s how business has to be done. But I don’t accept that.”

Others say the problem goes beyond bureaucracy. William Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and he says private contractors have found a way to make use of the Pentagon’s struggle to get its books in order. Contractors, he says, will “periodically intervene to try to stop practices that would make them more accountable”.

Specifically, the defense industry has sought to weaken the office of the director, operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) at the Department of Defense, which evaluates weapons systems before they’re manufactured on a larger scale. “It’s one of the few places that’s revealed a lot of problems,” says Hartung. The DOT&E, for example, has uncovered flaws in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program among a slew of other contracts. “The concept is: benefit from a dysfunctional system because they can charge however much they want and there’s not a lot of quality control,” says Hartung.

Another issue is the proximity between DoD and the private sector, something that appears to touch even the department’s inspector general’s office. In 2014, the Pentagon celebrated the Marine Corps’s success at being the first military agency to pass an audit. But a year later it was found that the private accounting firm hired to carry out the audit, Grant Thornton, had not been thorough. The Marine Corps had desperately wanted to achieve a “clean” status, due to pressure from then defense secretary Leon Panetta to get its books in order.

In a scathing response to the debacle, Republican senator for Iowa Chuck Grassley said that the actions of the DoD IG showed a “lack of independence and flagrant disregard for audit ethics”, calling the deputy IG for auditing “a Grant Thornton lapdog”.

Washington’s revolving door also touches the agency, with a number of high-profile individuals moving to the private sector after leaving their jobs, something that is perfectly within the law and government regulations.

In the end, Hartung says that the military’s stature and almost holy status make focusing on accountability difficult. If lobbying doesn’t work, he says, they can always “wrap themselves in the flag and say this is necessary for defense. But if people don’t poke into the details,” they won’t “find out that, in fact, not every penny being spent is sacrosanct”. your social media marketing partner


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+9 # Radscal 2017-03-20 20:04
This is crazy, isn’t it? More than half of the Government’s discretionary spending, and we don’t get to know where all that money goes. But at least we’ll stop giving grandma lunch when we slash Meals on Wheels because that’s the real problem. /s

“That’s because although it’s required to by law, the DoD has never had an audit, something every American person, every company and every other government agency is subject to.”

Crucially, the Federal Reserve System has never had a full audit either. In the 112 years since the Fed was created, it acquiesced to a single and only partial audit just once.

Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders managed to convince the Fed to allow a partial audit after the 2008/2009 bailouts. The Fed could not (or would not) state how many Federal Reserve Notes it had created, and to which banks the Fed gave those dollars, nor how much each bank received.

The audit failed to answer any of those questions.
+6 # Radscal 2017-03-20 20:08
“Legislation in the early 1990s demanded that all government agencies had annual audits, but the Pentagon has exempted itself without consequence for 20 years now…”

This is another confirmation that the Federal Reserve Banking System is NOT actually a government agency, despite what apologists plead.

Private, supra-national banksters own and control US monetary policy, including choosing when and how much currency to conjure up, and then loan to the US government WITH INTEREST.
+5 # m... 2017-03-20 22:57
Maybe an Audit would help Americans begin to wake up to the ENTIRE Trickle Down Privatization of Government Scam long happening already throughout Government by way of endless, Highly Corporate-Profi table, Cost-Overruns-I mmune, Contracting-Beg ets-Contracting Schemes that have become the biggest reasons for rises in discretionary costs of government.
I will bet we could have the same military we have now for at least a third less the cost after a proper audit and PROPER adjustments.
The Republican philosophy has 'trickled' down to--- if it can't be privatized into the hands of our political benefactors, then make up reasons and gut it and gut it.
Trump's philosophy seems even more simple minded...
I think his mind may work like this: 'If I cut government to the bone, then there won't be so many complaints about the spending on coddling me all the way through my term as-- 'President for Life'..., and that's why I need a bigger military and stronger police forces.., and a lot less courts, judges, Congress, press, NSA, FBI and CIA.., at least until I can make the proper adjustments later, after I suppress the mass Civil Unrest I unleash and then bring everyone to heel.
Its gotta be done folks. They won't listen to me... Its just gotta be done..... Right?... That's Right.... Don't worry... I'll get it done... Thank you and good night...'
Crowd cheering wildly....
Fade to Black...
+7 # Cassandra2012 2017-03-21 00:58
While bridges collapse & our once exemplary highway system fall into ruin. People die from lack of healthcare & 'meals on wheels' for the handicapped elderly, Sesame Street, NPR, PBS, Planned Parenthood, Education, the safety of EPA regulations, are defunded , underfunded or eliminated!!!
But the unaudited, unaccountable , profiteering military/indust rial complex gobbles up more funding & the avaricious Trump Klan line their pockets with millions in taxpayer finding for their corrupt business jaunts and vacations etc.
+9 # RLF 2017-03-21 04:37
Do we really think that the billions of cash dollars found in Iraq just disappeared? We have corruption at unprecedented levels in every other part of government...wh y would we think the military is any different?
+4 # maverita 2017-03-21 08:42
A true audit would no doubt turn up enough waste, loss and foolishess to amount to more than the proposed increase. This massive military buildup is uncalled for and unacceptable. The corporations and the military industrial complex would benefit from more scrutiny, certainly not more money.
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-03-21 08:44
The world’s largest & most criminal fraud; & Gen. Smedley Butler is twirling like a centrifuge in his grave.
+4 # Working Class 2017-03-21 10:05
Read "Wealth and Democracy" by Kevin Phillips. It not only traces how government facilitates the concentration of wealth, it also traces the common threads of empires and how they fade from being number one. One, and I want to stress only one, such thread is the role a bloated military, and its role in draining a nations resources, plays in the fading of dominance of said empire. All empires are displaced over time. When empires dedicate an inordinate amount to its military and ignores the needs of its common citizen the empire is on its path to be displaced by another. This does not mean they go away, but they definitely are displaced by another rising star. A nation cannot indefinitely disregard the needs of the majority of its citizens, whether it is to lavish resources on its military or the corporate benefactors of its elected officials. If we are to extend this experiment we call the United States it is imperative that we restore balance to our the spending of our treasury. It is the current lack of balance, and the recognition by struggling citizens that the system is not working for them, that has handed us this debacle called "Trump".

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