Peace is Possible

 fcnl.org   

Peace Is Possible    

 

9 December 2018

 

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength….”    Psalm 33:16

 

Pentagon Flunks its Audit

Congress Must Demand Accountability

adapted from Jeff Pudlo, FCNL            December 4, 2018

In November 2018, the Pentagon finally completed its first ever department-wide audit.  It failed.  Miserably.

Everyone in Washington knew the Pentagon would fail its audit.  For months the Pentagon had been lowering expectations.  Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist has repeatedly said that the Pentagon will need a decade to pass an audit.

 

The effort to manage expectations worked. The press greeted the news of the failed audit with barely a yawn, and moved on.  Congress and taxpayers should not move on. The single largest agency of the United States government just confirmed that it cannot track what it has done with your money.  It cannot say where the equipment and parts it already purchased are.  It does not know what buildings and land it does or does not own.

Remember the context. Today the federal government and many states are busy piling new accounting burdens on poor people. To be eligible for food stamps, a single mother taking care of small children has to document every step of her job search. In 15 states, recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments can be drug tested—often without any reason for suspicion.

Or consider another example.  In the recent debate over health care, it has been frequently lamented that US patients pay double or more than patients in other Western industrialized countries pay for the same procedures, yet with worse outcomes.  Similarly, National Public Radio reported in early December that the Pentagon’s annual budget ($700 billion for 2018, $716 billion for 2019) exceeds those of the next seven largest national militaries in the world combined.  At the same time, the government released an assessment that US military strength and preparedness is waning and needs even more taxpayer dollars.  Somehow, the money being spent by DoD is not producing the security being promised.  In 2016, at least $100 billion went to five defense contractors whose five CEOs got a combined $100 million in salaries.  DoD’s budget has doubled since 2002.

The poor cannot use “we never expected to pass this audit” as an excuse. Meanwhile, failures that would set off instant firings of senior leaders in any other organization are met with a shrug at the Pentagon. When the Navy has parts depots that have never had a real inventory check, Congress doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow. Pentagon apologists on Capitol Hill say that taxpayers shouldn’t worry. They say it’s just too complicated to go back and account for all that stuff in the middle of fighting a war.

 Congress has enabled a military culture where waste is a virtue and frugality is foolish. When a program goes wrong, Congress just gives the Department of Defense more money. Pentagon leaders suffer no consequences to their career or reputation when they fabricate estimated costs or when their ventures fail at twice the projected costs. Asset management practices that would probably get private sector bosses fired—or food stamp applicants prosecuted for fraud—inflict no real consequence on the military.

 The Pentagon’s failing grade on its first full audit must be a wake-up call. The new Congress must finally demand real answers, real accountability, and real change from our nation’s military.

 

Sample Letter

 Sen.-Elect Mike Braun      US Senate        Washington, DC  20510

               202-224-3121                www.braun.senate.gov

Sen. Todd Young    400 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.   Washington, DC  20510

               202-224-5623                            www.young.senate.gov

Rep.-Elect Greg Pence  US House of Representatives  Washington, DC  20515

              202-224-3121                www.pence.house.gov

 

Sir:                                                                                                                                                                      

I am appalled (but not surprised) that the Pentagon had to admit in November that it has miserably failed its first-ever full financial audit.  As the new Congress begins its work, I ask that you do everything possible to prevent that unaccountability from continuing.

 

National Public Radio reported recently that the US military’s annual budget is larger than the next seven largest militaries in the world combined, and yet our government says our readiness and strength are diminishing.  Something is terribly amiss.  Taxpayers’ money is being wasted and stolen at the cost of the nation’s security, but no one is being held accountable.

In the 116th Congress, please invest my tax dollars in things that heal rather than destroy — in diplomacy and compassionate development around the world, not in a bloated Pentagon and a predatory defense industry.  When real human needs are met with US help in vulnerable places in the world, we all will be more secure.

                                                Sincerely,