Pentagon fraud and waste are commonplace, and even a standard practice, a new report claims. The Reuters report says numbers have been intentionally manipulated to hide billions of dollars in waste from the US Treasury and the public. The practice has allegedly been standard procedure for decades now.
Business Insider reports on people who have come forward to discuss the Pentagon’s fraud, including a 15-year employee with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS, named Linda Woodford. Ms. Woodford says it was her office’s duty to put together monthly reports on defense expenses for the US Treasury.
Until she retired in 2011, Woodford says the numbers given to her office always seemed to have inaccurate numbers or expenses that had no explanation. Typically, the numbers would not come until two days before the monthly report was due. To get the job done quickly, Woodford says she was told to make “unsubstantiated change actions” to square the budget figures. Essentially, she was asked to enter fraudulent numbers, called “plugs.”
The Pentagon’s fraud should not come as a great surprise, as the body is rarely if ever held accountable for its budget. As The Wire points out, despite a 1996 law which requires all government bodies to face an audit every year, the Defense Department’s expenses have never been examined. Though the Pentagon’s yearly budget is known — $565.5 billion for 2013, even after sequester cuts — what is unknown is where and how that money is used. That figure is more than the annual military budgets of the 10 next largest spenders combined.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that, despite recent laws requiring at least a partial Pentagon audit, the deadline will likely be missed. Billions of dollars were spent by the Pentagon in recent years to make an audit easier by installing new software. However, the software turned out to be faulty, yet another Pentagon waste.
According to Business Insider, the Pentagon accounting fraud means the Defense Department often has a difficult time tracking stores of equipment, like weapons and vehicles. This means new supplies are often bought when they are not actually needed. One example of this happened between 2003 and 2011, when the US Army somehow lost supplies worth $5.8 billion.
This can lead to equipment shortages for troops, as pointed out in a memo authored by the Pentagon’s inspector general in 2012. The misappropriation, he writes, “could hinder their [soldiers’] ability to train soldiers and respond to emergencies.”
All told, Pentagon fraud means the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars sent off by Congress since 1996 has not been audited, with much of it remaining unaccounted for to the US public.
[Image via ShutterStock]