In typical Groundhog Day fashion, the Pentagon has failed yet another audit. Yet, for the most part, nobody seems to care in the media or government. When you fail year after year, it becomes the rule versus the exception to fail basic standards.

This recent failure marks the fifth year that the Defense Department has failed to meet the audit requirements set by Congress. That’s right, dear reader, your former War Department can’t fully account for all of its assets.

So how bad was it? If you ask the lead money man of the five-sided building, it wasn’t that bad; I mean, it’s only a couple trillion dollars worth of stuff that we can’t find, that’s not that bad.

It’s Bad

Of the 27 agencies audited within the Department of Defense, only seven received a passing grade. To put some dollar amounts to that, only 39% of the $3.5 trillion in assets are accounted for, leaving a deficit of about $2.2 trillion in assets unaccounted for.

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It can be challenging to conceptualize numbers this big in an agency that takes up over half of the discretionary funding in our country. To break down a bit what we mean when we refer to assets, this includes everything from the below list, which isn’t all-encompassing:

  • 2.9 million military personnel
  • Equipment and weapons
  • 19,700 aircraft
  • 290 ships
  • Buildings and supplies spread out over 4,860 installations and sites worldwide

The audit also encompasses activities like the DOD health care system, which provides medical care for 9.6 million active-duty retirees and their families.

Suppose you’ve never been to a military base. In that case, they are like small cities with their own police departments, schools, transportation systems, and housing structure.

So these audits don’t just cover our wartime assets, such as bullets and warheads, but it also covers the department’s personnel care structures, such as beans and beds. So not knowing where over 60% of their assets are doesn’t just speak volumes about the DOD’s ability to take the fight to the bad guys but also their ability to care for the American warfighter.

For those with a long memory, this kind of outrageous irresponsibility isn’t new. 

Readers may recall a very interesting press conference on September 10, 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon couldn’t account for $2.3 trillion.

What Have We Learned?

Pentagon Chief Financial Officer Mike McCord doesn’t seem too concerned, stating:

“We failed to get an A. I would not say that we flunked.”

Leave it to a Pentagon bureaucrat to spin being the sole government agency to have never passed an audit as not a complete failure. Because as a taxpayer or a parent of a service member, knowing that the machine built to care for your warfighters is, at best, getting a D- in audit readiness.

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Mr. McCord went on to say that these failed audits are “teachable moments,” touching on the war in Ukraine, saying:

“That’s to me a really great example of why it matters to get this sort of thing right – of counting inventory, knowing where it is and knowing when it is arriving.”

Now that is an interesting comment; curious how well that will age if the Republicans get their way and can audit the military aid sent to Ukraine. The most teachable aspect of this repeated and expected audit failure is that business will continue to go on as usual in the endless spending pit that is the Pentagon.

Scarce Accountability

It’s fitting that the Pentagon can’t account for roughly $2 trillion worth of assets and that there is no accountability for their lack of accountability. Last year after they failed their fourth consecutive audit, lawmakers attempted to pass the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2021.

This legislation would have penalized the department by returning 1% of the budget to the Treasury if they failed to meet their audits. That’s right, a bipartisan group of Senators dared to penalize the Pentagon for not meeting Congressionally mandated standards.

Though one has to ask – if they don’t know what happened to $2 trillion, how are they going to notice a 1% cut?

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Senator Bernie Sanders, who cosponsored the bill with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Wyden (D-Ore), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), argued:

“If we are serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively, we have got to end the absurdity of the Pentagon being the only agency in the federal government that has not passed an independent audit.”

The reality is nobody is serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely, especially when it comes to the defense machine. The Department of Defense is on track to receive $1 trillion in its annual budget come 2027.

The Real Cost

If you are still having a hard time wrapping your mind around why the Pentagon must be held to task for its inability and unwillingness to track its funding and assets appropriately, let’s dial it down to what the Pentagon is ultimately tasked to do; take the fight to the bad guys.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently issued a report on how well we allocated funds and executed our mission.

The report didn’t mince words when it came to the effectiveness and efficiency of the $145 billion that was poured into that country, stating:

“The United States sought to build stable, democratic, representative, gender-sensitive, and accountable Afghan governance institutions. It failed.”

Touching on the more significant issue behind the failed War Department, professor Chris Mason of the U.S. Army War College was quoted in the report:

“U.S. efforts to build and sustain Afghanistan’s governing institutions were a total, epic, predestined failure on par with the same efforts and outcome in the Vietnam war, and for the same reasons.”

The actual cost of the Pentagon’s ineptitude isn’t just lost assets and taxpayer dollars; it’s American lives and America’s reputation.

Who Are They Fighting For?

Historically it’s been considered a faux pas to question the military arm of our government. It was considered akin to disgracing the everyday soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. 

The botched withdrawal of Afghanistan has finally stirred some in the media, government, and regular population to start questioning the motivations and credibility of the military brass and civilian leaders charged with supporting and defending our great Constitution.

Senator Grassley pointed out last year:

“We’ve seen example after example of excessive and inefficient spending by the Pentagon, and every dollar squandered is a dollar not being used to support our men and women in uniform.”

Who are the actual benefactors of the Pentagon’s gross financial negligence? One merely has to look at the military-industrial complex to see who is supported.

Take the Pentagon’s endeavor to increase shipbuilding production. They estimate the program to cost $27 billion annually between 2023 and 2052.

However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that estimate is off by $120 billion overall. Mr. McCord said of the audits:

“The process is important for us to do, and it is making us get better. It is not making us get better as fast as we want.”

The speed is exactly where you want it to be.

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