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Pentagon Fails Audit (Again!) – OpEd

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That’s what should have been the biggest news of 2021.

Instead, the story, which broke on November 17, was largely ignored or buried. The nation’s two main newspapers, the Washington Post and the New York Times, have simply ignored it. Other news organizations stenographically quoted Pentagon officials as admitting that they “failed again” but saw “progress,” and as promising that they would achieve a “clean” audit by… get this … 2027.

The Pentagon, with some $3 trillion (give or take a trillion but who’s counting?) in assets and a record current 2021 budget of $738 billion, has for the third year in a row failed its audit. An army of 1400 auditors hired by us taxpayers for $230 million and borrowed from some of the biggest auditing firms in the country, spent the past year poring through the books and visiting hundreds of operations of the government’s largest and geographically vastest single agency, and came back with word that they couldn’t give it a pass.

They couldn’t even figure it out.

Think about that for a minute. The US military, which each year sucks up close to half of the nation’s now $1.6-trillion discretionary budget, is a financial black hole! Nobody in the White House Budget Office, the Congressional Armed Services or Budget Committees, the General Accounting Office, or in the Pentagon itself, can say with a straight face how much the Pentagon spends of all the funds it is allocated by Congress each year, where that money gets spent, of even where all the equipment it buys — planes, ammunition, bombs, ships, etc. — are currently.

Perhaps more important in the long term, nobody anywhere in the government can honestly say how much the Pentagon actually needs each year, even according to the trumped up claims made in each year’s proposed Pentagon budget.

That in itself explains why the Pentagon budget just keeps growing. Look at this year, for example, where Congress actually handed an extra $53 billion to the nation’s military, over and beyond the $715 billion that the Pentagon and the Biden Administration asked for. The just adopted FY 2022 budget, called the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) is, incredibly, larger in constant dollars than any year since World War II. That is to say, it is greater adjusted for inflation than it has been for any year during the Korean War, the entire Cold War, or the Vietnam War (when the US at one point had over 500,000 troops in battle, a huge US Navy Pacific fleet in the South China Sea and half the US Air Force, including a large portion of the Strategic Air Command’s B-52s, busy with carpet bombing and napalming attacks halfway around the globe). Meanwhile, the US at present is not, in any significant way, involved in an actual war anywhere.

In 2019, when I exposed in a Nation MagazIne cover story the incredible $21-trillion fraud that has been going on at the Pentagon for over two decades of deliberate budget obfuscation, I wrote that if this kind of scandalous behavior were occurring in any other government department (with the possible exception of the sacrosanct CIA and National Security Agency, which of course have actual “black” budgets not seen by either press or Congress), it would be huge news in the media, and would prompt angry hearings in Congress. Imagine, for example, if the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, or perhaps the Department of State couldn’t pass an audit! Even though the amount of money at issue would be orders of magnitude lower, there’d be hell to pay. Department secretaries or agency directors would lose their posts and their reputations, and members of Congress would be demanding prime time opportunities denounce the scandal on the floor of the Capitol, and the media would be all over it.

But the fact that the Pentagon can’t explain what it is doing with the 50 cents on every dollar of taxes that American’s pay to the Treasury each year from their hard-earned paychecks, and has made it so that no government office can figure it out, either, and the reality that Congress keeps on shoveling more and more money into the five-sided black hole across the Potomac River, year after year, should have the whole nation up in arms.

Right now, the US is midway through spending $1.7 trillion buying and upgrading “on the fly” thousands of F-35A allegedly stealth fighter-bombers which can’t do what they’re supposed to do, aren’t needed for any kind of war that the US is likely to ever get involved in (that would be with Russia or China, the only countries with advanced aircraft, but which would both end up in an all-out nuclear war with the US if it ever came to direct combat), and which will probably end up being replaced with something more expensive and pointless before they’re all built.

The US is also well into another $1.5-trillion pointless and destabilizing program begun during the Obama administration to “upgrade” and “modernize” the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

That is, instead of sitting down with the world’s other eight nuclear powers and seriously negotiating a denuclearization of all our nuclear arsenals, and eventually signing on to the UN ban on nuclear weapons just approved a year ago by a huge majority of the nations of the world and made a part of the laws of war, the US is working on developing and pre-positioning around the globe bombs that are considered small enough to be “useable” in non-nuclear conflicts.

I’m talking about bombs that are downsized from megatons to anywhere from 0.3 kilotons (just 300 tons of dynamite equivalent) to 50 kilotons (about three times the size of the bomb that leveled Nagasaki).

“Useable” nukes they call them!

Instead of looking for ways to pull the US out of provocative locations around the globe where all it has been able to do since the end of WWII with its awesome weapons, enormous Navy and huge standing military is sow instability, support violent coups, invade countries that don’t do the US’s bidding and drop bombs, drone-fired rockets and send in Special Forces troops in countries that the US has no right to be in (think Syria, Somalia, Niger, Haiti, Yemen, Iraq, etc.), President Joe Biden is now considering sending weapons and trainers to Ukraine, missile-carrying destroyers into the Black Sea off Russia’s coast, attacking Iran (or allowing Israel to do the dirty work), provoking China in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, and who knows what else.

Biden can do this because, for the Pentagon, money is no object. The Pentagon gets whatever it wants even though it cannot tell anyone, and probably doesn’t itself know, where the money all goes.

My computer screensaver image is a photo of a sea of young people, mostly young men, myself included, seated on the Mall of the Pentagon in October 1967, confronting a double line of rifle-toting federalized troops. Back then we were demanding an end to what we in the US still call the Vietnam War (the Vietnamese call it the American War, which, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they ultimately won). That protest and others that followed it made a hell of a lot more sense and would be vastly more appropriate and important if reprised today, than the bunch of fascist yahoos who busted into Congress a year ago on January 6 trying to hang Vice President Mike Pence and install presidential election loser, Donald Trump, as the nation’s Major Domo.

I hope people will ponder this question.

Why are we allowing this outrage to continue?

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Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

One thought on “Pentagon Fails Audit (Again!) – OpEd

  • January 6, 2022 at 3:37 pm
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    I work for a DoD service where we try to assist auditors during their audit work. The big 4 teams know auditing but naturally are clueless about legacy systems (COBOL coded) that feed economic events into legacy accounting systems. There are plenty of people like me on these “subject matter expert” teams that are called accountants in title who know nothing about accounting. You keep hearing the excuse “it’s the systems that were never meant to be accounting systems”. It’s Dunning Kruger on the people side though that is an unaddressed problem

    Reply

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