Issues, Military, National Security

Making the Pentagon great again requires an audit

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Earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General released a report about a troubled DoD counter-narcotics initiative. The key aspect of the program, Global Discovery, is a modified ATR 42-500 aircraft. The aircraft is equipped with sophisticated equipment, designed to help eradicate the substantial heroin production taking place in Afghanistan. Thanks to a lack of oversight, the American taxpayers now have the world’s most expensive paperweight sitting in a warehouse in Delaware.

Image Credit: David B. Gleason CC by SA 2.0

The During the more than 7-year program, DoD personnel purchased equipment, contracted for modifications to the aircraft, modified the aircraft, subsequently had the modifications removed from the aircraft, and returned the aircraft to its original form, but without the required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight certification. Consequently, the DoD received no benefit for its more than 7 years’ work, and $64.8 million in funds were wasted.

This may seem like a lot, but the Pentagon is famous for wasting money.

In 2008, the Pentagon purchased 20 Italian G-222s for the Afghan air force. The planes were supposed to serve the cargo and transit needs of the Afghan military. The aircraft cost the U.S. taxpayers $486 million.

Almost immediately a problem surfaced. Afghanistan is covered in a fine powder dust, a substance that does not mix well with aircraft. The aircraft were constantly breaking down and required more maintenance and spare parts than originally requested.

So much maintenance was required, from Jan. to Sept. 2012, the aircraft were only able to fly 5 percent of their expected hours. By Aug. 2014, the spare parts that could be sold were sold, and the rest of the aircraft were destroyed and sold as scrap metal for a whopping $32,000.

When the Pentagon was completed in 1943 it was the world’s largest building. Since then the DoD has had a love affair with buildings, especially spending millions on useless buildings. One of the more idiotic examples is a multi-million dollar natural-gas filling station in Afghanistan.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found what appears to be the world’s most expensive gas station, and you guessed it, you paid for it. The project was originally a $3 million contract, even though a similar station is only $500,000 if Pakistan, and ballooned up to $43 million thanks to poor planning, cost overruns, and overhead according to SIGAR.

The wasteful spending is not only on objects like planes and buildings, it is in the DNA of the DOD. In 2015, a report released by the Defense Business Board and consultants from McKinsey and Company showed the Pentagon could save $125 billion over the next five years by getting rid of bureaucratic waste. The report showed this could be done without firing one employee or reducing the size of the active duty force.

What a great idea. Surely the Pentagon immediately instituted the ideas and put the savings towards military readiness? Nope, the Pentagon tried to hide the report and buried it.

This is more alarming than any gas station because it shows an institutional problem with the Pentagon. It shows the Pentagon has no problem with waste at its core. It is time for the President to change that and a law passed in 1990 can help.

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 instructs all government agencies to have an audit conducted by an Inspector General or independent accountant. However, the DoD has never complied with the law, and Congress keeps giving the Pentagon a free pass.

When the Pentagon did turn over some financial statements, the records were in such disarray the IG declared them unauditable stating, “DoD OIG audits of those financial statements for FYs 1991 through 2001 identified pervasive and long-standing material weaknesses, which caused those financial statements to be unauditable.”

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to rebuild a depleted military. After years under sequestration, the military was running on fumes. Readiness was so bad; the Marine Corps resorted to raiding museums to acquire aircraft parts. This is unacceptable on so many levels, especially when it is ok to spend $43 million on a gas station. President Trump is attempting to rectify the situation and has asked for an increase in defense spending to address the readiness issue.

The President is also addressing the issue by pushing reform within the Pentagon. Trump’s appointee to comptroller for the Pentagon agrees wholeheartedly with the President. David Norquist even went so far as to call for an audit of the Pentagon during his confirmation hearing, and he is pushing to move forward with the plan to audit.

Some have put the cost of an audit at $200 million believing it is too expensive. This is a drop in the bucket when you consider the Senate just passed a $700 billion DoD budget. The cost to conduct the audit the first time would be a fraction of a fraction of a percent. Once the systems are in place to conduct the audit, it would get cheaper to conduct an audit in the future.

If an audit can identify only 10 percent of fraud, waste, and abuse in the DoD, that will give the President another $70 billion to put towards the warfighter. That seems like very reasonable return on investment.

The President is the Commander in Chief. It is time for him to give a direct order to Secretary of Defense James Mattis for the Inspector General to conduct an audit of the Pentagon. It is reprehensible the U.S. military has lost more troops to training accidents than combat deaths this year, and that is directly linked to a lack of funding. Auditing the Pentagon is not only a way to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, it will save lives.

This is a guest post by Printus LeBlanc a contributing editor for Americans for Limited Government.

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