The Pentagon cannot account for $4.4 trillion dollars according to a new Department of Defense audit – raising alarm bells not just because of the obvious lack of accountability and oversight, but because the last time the Pentagon ‘lost’ an enormous sum of money, 9/11 happened.
Donald Rumsfeld was due to testify about a missing $2.3 trillion before Congress on September 13 2001, however the case was put on hold after the events of September 11.
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The paper trail was destroyed when one side of the Pentagon was blown up, and the $2.3 trillion dollar case was brushed under the rubble.
The new case of the missing trillions, and the combustible political climate in 2022, has left many commentators fearing that “something big is about to happen again.”
The Hill reports that after 1,600 auditors combed through DOD’s $3.5 trillion in assets and $3.7 trillion in liabilities, officials found that the department couldn’t account for about 61 percent of its assets, Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters on Tuesday.
Federal law since the early 1990s requires mandatory audits for all government agencies, and since fiscal year 2013 all but the DOD have been able to satisfy that requirement.
The sheer size and scope of the department — which makes up for more than half of the U.S. discretionary spending and has assets that range from personnel and supplies to bases and weapons — makes it difficult to audit.
In December 2017, defense officials set out to scrutinize DOD’s books, the first comprehensive audit of the agency in its history. That effort failed the next year, and the four that followed.
The agency had never expected to pass, however, due to accounting issues officials said could take years to fix.
Because accounting records needed to complete the assessment were not available, all five audits received a “disclaimer of opinion,” though there have been improvements each time.
McCord, who served as Pentagon comptroller from 2009 to 2017 and again since June 2021, said the most recent audit required 220 in-person site visits and 750 virtual site visits by Pentagon officials and independent public accounting firm personnel.
What they found were several new weaknesses in how DOD accounted for its assets, which include nearly 2.9 million military personnel; equipment and weapons including 19,700 aircraft and more than 290 ships; and physical items including buildings, roads and fences on 4,860 sites worldwide.
To break up the work, the department holds 27 separate, smaller audits and then combines the information to get the bigger picture and prevent “having something on a record that doesn’t exist in reality or having big discrepancies.”
McCord said that while he prefers to focus on the progress in this year’s audit, each time “the progress is getting a little harder” due to “much of the lower hanging fruit having been picked,” meaning the simpler issues have already been weeded out.
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