In my piece on lawmakers struggling to reform defense spending, I mention that not only is there waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon, but some of this waste can’t even be audited. How can the Pentagon get to the point where it’s "un-auditable?"
The answer mostly lies in the "emergency" spending bills passed each year since 2002 to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spending in these bills is not included in the Pentagon’s overall budget. Unlike the usual defense budget, there’s been no systematic effort to go back to these war spending bills and see how much actually was spent each year versus how much the Pentagon projected it would spend.
But even these projections can’t be audited. A recent audit of Iraq war contracts said that $1.4 billion in contracts lacked "even minimum supporting documentation." This included a $320 million contract to an Iraq ministry. The contract doesn’t reveal the ministry, any of the people involved, or an explanation of what the contract is for.
A final factor in the path toward "un-auditability" is that Pentagon spending has doubled in the past seven years while the number of Pentagon investigators monitoring the spending has stayed the same. A recent Pentagon inspector general report complained that there were too many government contracts and not enough contracting officers to do an effective audit.
Someday in the future we might be able to definitively talk about wasteful defense spending. But that world now only exists in Pentagon investigator’s dreams.
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