Friday, April 13, 2018

Who keeps the Pentagon accountable?

Our national defense budget is the largest in the world. Actually, it is larger than the next eight defense budgets -including our allies- combined. Every single year, the Pentagon receives billions of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, the Defense Department reports that it has more than $2.2 trillion in assets. In an ideal world, the Defense Department would spend every single dollar with great care and accountability; however, we know that is not true. In 2016, Pentagon officials reported an "internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations." Over 16 years ago, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also reported that "according to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." 

So, with the fact that the Defense Department is not infallible when it comes to its multi-billion dollar budget, what has been done to fix this problem? In short, until 2017, nothing. The Defense Department has never been audited before 2017. In 2010, Congress intentionally added a requirement, "an extra seven years to clean up books and get ready" as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa states in the National Defense Authorization Act before annual audits began. As of September 2017, the Defense Department has begun its now annual audit with an expected release date of November 15, 2018 (for 2017's defense budget audit). 

The issue of keeping the Defense Department accountable was also a part of the 2016 presidential election. Numerous candidates, including Hilary Clinton and now President Donald Trump, made campaign pledges to audit the Pentagon. Upon assuming office, President Trump upheld his pledge by nominating Gover Norquist, a former Department of the Army employee as the chief financial officer of the Department of Homeland Security, as the Pentagon's comptroller (NPR 2018). 

Hopefully, the annual audits of the Defense Department will keep the Pentagon accountable for its gargantuan defense budget. With such a large chunk of the taxpayer money being spent on defense, the Pentagon should at least maintain the most transparent manner of accountability by providing yearly audit reports that justify its budget. 


Pentagon Announces First-Ever Audit Of The Department Of Defense. (2017). Retrieved 13 April 2018, from

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