How US military spending keeps rising even as the Pentagon flunks its audit.
By Dave Lindorff
On November 15, Ernst & Young and other private firms that were hired to audit the Pentagon announced that they could not complete the job. Congress had ordered an independent audit of the Department of Defense, the government’s largest single cost center—the Pentagon receives two out of every three federal tax dollars collected—after the Pentagon failed for decades to audit itself. The firms concluded, however, that the DoD’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible.
Deputy secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tried to put the best face on things, telling reporters, “We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it.” Shanahan suggested that the DoD should get credit for attempting an audit, saying, “It was an audit on a $2.7 trillion dollar organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial.” The truth, though, is that the DoD was dragged kicking and screaming to this audit by bipartisan frustration in Congress, and the result, had this been a major corporation, likely would have been a crashed stock.
As Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a frequent critic of DoD’s financial practices, said on the Senate floor in September 2017, the Pentagon’s long-standing failure to conduct a proper audit reflects “twenty-six years of hard-core foot-dragging” on the part of the DoD, where “internal resistance to auditing the books runs deep.” In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act, which required all departments and agencies of the federal government to develop auditable accounting systems and submit to annual audits. Since then, every department and agency has come into compliance—except the Pentagon.
Now, a Nation investigation has uncovered an explanation for the Pentagon’s foot-dragging: For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly non-existent transactions—knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DoD the following year, according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts…
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