Government Spending

After We Audit the Pentagon, Maybe We Should Audit the Audit

The Defense Department can't account for how it spends its money.

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Two and a half decades after Congress passed a law requiring the Defense Department to audit itself, the agency still hasn't managed to do the job. But it did manage to spend a lot of money making itself allegedly more auditable. The Project on Government Oversight explains:

"Yes, there are a couple of accountants outside my office. Please have them renditioned."
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In 1990 Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act, which required every federal agency to be auditable. Since then every agency has complied—except for the Department of Defense. Instead, there's been a saga of audit readiness plans and billions spent to upgrade out-of-date financial systems—plans and upgrades the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2010 wasted nearly $6 billion.

Again, that was in 2010. Figuring out how much the Pentagon has frittered away failing to perform the task since then may require, well, an audit.

To read the whole article—including the tale of how the Marine Corps finally seemed to get an audit report in 2014, only to have it withdrawn—go here. And for a brief history of Pentagon waste, read William Hartung's look at the issue here. The military's ongoing inability to audit itself "may be spectacularly bad bookkeeping," Hartung writes, "but it's great for defense firms, which profit all the more in an environment of minimal accountability." Funny how that works out.