(This artidle was written for The Edge, a publication of Ithaca College’s Park Center for Independent Media.)
One of the biggest blacked-out stories of 2021 surely has to be the news, on November 16, that the Pentagon once again had abysmally failed to pass an audit, despite the best efforts of 1,200 top-flight Wall Street auditors operating on a $220-million budget, to vet the Pentagon’s estimated $3 trillion balance sheet of assets and liabilities, and its fiscal year 2021 spending budget of $780 billion.
Pentagon spending accounts for half the entire annual discretionary budget of the U.S. government each year. (That is, spending annually appropriated by Congress, as opposed to mandated spending, which is largely out of Congress’s control, such as interest on the federal debt, payment of Social Security benefits, and payment of Medicare benefits, also funded by a special tax.) The fact that this largest agency in the U.S. government cannot and for decades has refused to provide the government with an auditable accounting of its expenditures doesn’t seem to count as major news in the U.S. corporate media. Indeed, for most domestic news organizations it isn’t news at all.
The New York Times has run no report on the Pentagon’s failure to pass a fourth audit in a row. Neither has the Washington Post. An exception to this editorial deep-sixing of an incredibly important piece of news was, as usual, the Reuters news service, which has been following this story doggedly for years. Its report, authored by Mike Stone and headlined “US Pentagon fails fourth audit,” still put a spritz of deodorant on the stench by quoting the Pentagon’s chief financial officer claiming the sprawling agency was making “steady progress” and offering that it might perhaps succeed in having a fully auditable budget by 2027.
That’s a whole administration and several new Congresses away from today. It’s a considerably longer time than the U.S. spent fighting in World War II.
Meanwhile the reality — as I wrote when I covered and explained the first epic full-audit failure of a similar outside audit team examining the Pentagon’s finances in 2018 in an article in the Nation magazine — for all the decades that the Pentagon has stonewalled Congressional demands that it produce standard, decipherable, and auditable accounting records, Congress has had no way it can do its Constitutional duty of overseeing and controlling the budget of the government’s single biggest and costliest agency.
As a number of my sources back then told me, it’s impossible for Congressional oversight bodies like the Congressional Budget Office, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the House and Senate Budget Committees, or even the White House and the Secretary of Defense (sic), to rationally determine how much of the funding that the Pentagon requests each year is actually needed without knowing how much it actually spent of the funds allocated for the prior fiscal year.
And it’s not as if the Pentagon is trying to have a decipherable budget to present to Congress. In fact, what used to be more accurately called America’s War Department does the exact opposite. Each year, as they’ve done for decades, Pentagon accountants based at an Army facility in Indiana go over all the numbers. Then, as routinely happens, when the numbers for allocated funds from the Treasury, and funds on everything from payments to weapons system contractors to salaries for personnel, don’t balance as they should, these accountants just insert what they call a “plug,” artificially making it look like everything was covered, or spent. But everyone knows these plugs — which over the years have totaled more than $50 trillion! — are fake numbers.
And although there’s no such term of art as “plug” in the accounting lexicon, nothing gets done about it…
For the rest of this article by Dave Lindorff published in The Edge, a magazine put out by the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, please go to: https://www.theedgemedia.org/pentagon-failed-4th-audit/