Everyone knows that the Pentagon engages in wasteful spending, but not many knew to what extent. A Reuters investigation discovered that the Department of Defense (DoD) has lost track of approximately $8.5 trillion since 1996.
In 1990, a new federal law required all government agencies to be audited. The Pentagon, however, is the only government agency that hasn’t complied with the law, reported Yahoo Finance.
According to Reuters reporter Scot Paltrow, the DoD has accrued a backlog of $500 billion in unaudited contracts with outside businesses, and the actual amount of money that went to that purpose is unknown. Since 2005, the DoD had contracts worth $3 trillion with various businesses. The Treasury is still uncertain how that money was actually spent.
The Pentagon regularly cheats on its accounting books and submits a falsely balanced budget to the Treasury. In 2012, the Pentagon falsely reported $9.22 billion to reconcile its spending with its budget.
Despite reckless accounting and consistently falsified reports, no one has ever gotten in trouble for it. In a bipartisan effort, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have introduced legislation mandating the reduction of weapons programs if the DoD misses its budget. Coupled with a new effort to make DoD spending more transparent, politicians hope to curb wasteful defense spending.
The consequences of the DoD’s lack of competent accounting are astounding. The Government Accountability Office and the DoD inspector general say that such poor accounting makes it easier to hide fraud and other inappropriate purchases. Military personnel salaries are also affected by these accounting errors.
There is an effort to revamp the DoD’s accounting system by 2017. Sadly, there are no legal consequences or ways to hold anyone responsible. However, top officials say that the Pentagon can only straighten out if there is outside pressure from Washington.
All of this wasteful defense spending could go to improving the American infrastructure, bettering education, or helping needy families. Instead, trillions of dollars have gone missing, and the DoD either can’t, or won’t, say where all that money went.