ARLINGTON, Virgina. November 17th, 2020. After 3 successive failures to produce a clean audit, with this year’s repeat attempt resulting in a taxpayer cost of over $200 million, the Pentagon has decided it will postpone any auditing until 2027 of an estimated $2.9 trillion worth of assets and funding.
Delays from COVID-19 procedures, which prevented auditors from reaching 500 of the 600 total sites they visited last year, were cited. All six branches of the military failed to produce a clean audit, and only one department, Defense Information Systems Agency, out of 24 succeeded.
Comptroller Thomas Harker was quoted in Military as saying that such a process is something “that’s never been done for an entity of the size and complexity of the Department of Defense,” and that the “journey that will require a sustained effort over several years”.
Harker commented that savings in the DoD on property accountability and inventory, of matching what was on the balance sheet to what could be found in inventory, had saved $700 million.
In 1990 it became law that federal departments and agencies must be audited, but it wasn’t until 2018 that an audit of the Pentagon was attempted, and over 1,200 auditors gave it their best shot, something which was “irritating,” to then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. The audit failed, something which Shanahan admitted he fully expected.
That same year, investigative reporters from The Nation broke a story that the military had been deliberately cooking their accounting books for years, and were unable to provide receipts or evidence of any kind for a whopping $6.5 trillion in Army appropriations for fiscal year 2015, when the Army was afforded just $122 billion.
“The United States government collects trillions of dollars each year for the purpose of funding essential functions, including national-security efforts at the Defense Department,” Senator Grassley told The Nation. at the time. “When unelected bureaucrats misuse, mismanage and misallocate taxpayer funds, it not only takes resources away from vital government functions, it weakens citizens’ faith and trust in their government.”
No further audits will be conducted until 2027, which if the whistleblowers and the Inspector General who broke the story to The Nation in 2018 are correct, and if the budget continues to hover around a trillion per year for extended intelligence and “wishlist” purchasing by the Defense Department, there could be a pretty high demand for auditors in the nation’s capital some years from now.