Legislation from the 1990s obligating each and every government agency to undergo an audit annually notwithstanding, the Pentagon — with its obscenely bloated allocation in the hundreds of billions eclipsing the defense spending of the next several nation-states, combined — managed to escape the nightmarish prospect of accountability in an audit, entirely.
To reiterate, the United States Department of Defense — whose Fiscal Year 2018 budget hovers near a profane $700 billion despite heinous bookkeeping wherein no on is entirely sure what happened to over $10 trillion allotted it in annual budgets over the past three decades — has never faced an audit, ever, in departmental history.
“The Defense Department is starting the first agencywide financial audit in its history, Pentagon officials announced today,” a statement on Thursday explained.
Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist told the press he had received notification from the Office of the Inspector General announcing the first-ever audit of the Pentagon beginning this month — an endeavor so momentous in scope, no less than 1,200 auditors will be unleashed across the department to help ensure its completion. [Notably, the original DoD statement cited the number of auditors to execute the probe at 2,400 — a figure which changed remarkably and without additional notation or explanation from the Pentagon as to the nature, typo or otherwise, of the error.]
For good reason — the colossal undertaking will delve into every facet of the Pentagon’s inner workings — from weapons and personnel, to supplies, property, and bases, of which purportedly the exact number remains unknown.
“Starting an audit is a matter of driving change inside a bureaucracy that may resist it,” Norquist told members of the House Armed Services Committee during his tenure as CFO at the Department of Homeland Security, on the feasibility of carrying out an audit, when the time came for DHS to endure its own government-mandated, fine-toothed comb.
While this will be the Defense Department’s first audit in its history, it won’t be the last — Norquist tacitly acknowledged coming somewhat into compliance with the 90s-era law, announcing the Pentagon would undergo audits annually, “with reports issued every November 15.”
“With consistent feedback from auditors, we can focus on improving the processes of our day-to-day work,” the comptroller stated, championing the efficacy of the process. “Annual audits also ensure visibility over the quantity and quality of the equipment and supplies our troops use.”
For years, Defense officials proclaimed the infeasibility of auditing the Pentagon and its myriad branches, asserting without irony that, because an audit would be so massive, one could never be effectively or thoroughly performed.
“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” Rafael DeGennaro, director of Audit the Pentagon, told the Guardian at the beginning of the year. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”
Indeed, the lack of collective bookkeeping and, in essence, oversight have left DoD records in such disarray, it has been said no one at the Pentagon knows where some $10 trillion went — from supplies to weapons to bases to personnel to munitions stockpiles — and an audit proffers no guarantees the sum total will ever be ‘found.’
This stems from a plethora of terrible business practices — some, fomented directly as a stopgap when relevant information lacks.
For instance, a report from Reuters more than three years ago divulged, among a sizable laundry list of additional eyebrow-scratchers, the anything-but-ordinary, yet standard operating procedure, termed, “plugging,” as explained by dedicated 15-year Pentagon employee, Linda Woodford — whose entire career quite literally entailed “inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.”
According to Reuters, at crunch time, Woodford and her colleagues — who were required to reconcile U.S. Navy ledgers with those of the Treasury — regularly compensated for missing numbers, errant figures, and information without context with plugs. Straight lies, some, while other plugs were used to account for time discrepancies with financial institutions clearing checks.
However, although employees would attempt to reckon numbers afterward by entering updated and corrected information, such edits were not the rule, according to sources speaking with Reuters, and adding “unsubstantiated change actions” to the books was in 2013, if not still, par for the course at the Pentagon.
Beyond bookkeeping legerdemain, the DoD apparently harbors as much an issue with consumerism as the rest of the U.S. government — at least, judging by a single, telling glance into the ludicrous arrangement that are the Pentagon’s supply stockpiles and protocols for ordering, a morass of red tape courtesy of the Defense Logistics Agency.
If you want to find the missing trillions, one pertinent starting point would be the DLA, about which Reuters deadpanned, “keeps buying more of what it already has too much of.
“A document the Pentagon supplied to Congress shows that as of September 30, 2012, the DLA and the military services had $733 million worth of supplies and equipment on order that was already stocked in excess amounts on warehouse shelves. That figure was up 21% from $609 million a year earlier. The Defense Department defines ‘excess inventory’ as anything more than a three-year supply.
“Consider the ‘vehicular control arm,’ part of the front suspension on the military’s ubiquitous High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicles, or Humvees. As of November 2008, the DLA had 15,000 of the parts in stock, equal to a 14-year supply, according to an April 2013 Pentagon inspector general’s report.
“And yet, from 2010 through 2012, the agency bought 7,437 more of them — at prices considerably higher than it paid for the thousands sitting on its shelves. The DLA was making the new purchases as demand plunged by nearly half with the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The inspector general’s report said the DLA’s buyers hadn’t checked current inventory when they signed a contract to acquire more.”
Though the manipulation of trillions of tax dollars in part through ‘plugs’ and the hoarding of absurdly excess Humvee parts might provide superficial if nihilistic entertainment in print, that the United States Department of Defense — and its war machine apparatus squeezing its tentacles around the planet — hasn’t found mandatory audits necessary until this late date should particularly offend those opposed to an imperialist agenda.
Empire isn’t hidden in such smaller-scale erroneous numbers, Humvee parts, bullets, airplane parts, zippers, or pens — but without a shred of accountability, it might.