Defense dollars AWOL

Missing in Action


Has anybody seen $2.6 billion lying around? The Department of Defense recently admitted that it had no idea what has become of billions of dollars belonging to the Iraqi government.

An audit released in July by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction revealed that various government agencies failed to keep track of $9.1 billion in Iraqi oil proceeds. The oil fund was intended to help rebuild key infrastructure in Iraq, where basic services such as electricity and running water have been absent in much of the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Yet no specific agency was ever tasked with managing the money. Some 96 percent of the proceeds were never deposited in Treasury Department bank accounts, despite explicit requirements to do so.

The audit also showed that the U.S. military still possessed $34.3 million in funds it was legally required to give back to the Iraqi government in December 2007. Perhaps most troubling of all, the Defense Department had no idea what became of $2.6 billion—an amount slightly greater than the average state budget deficit in the U.S. last year. "The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss," the inspector general's report concluded.