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There’s a show from the 1980s called ALF about an alien that ends up having to live with a family after accidentally crashing into their garage. In one episode, he runs up a major gambling tab and to pay it off raises the prices on items at the family’s garage sale without their knowledge to get the money needed to pay off his debts.
Shortly after figuring this out, a military officer walks up to the grandmother who’s running the garage sale at the time and asks her if she has anymore $800 dollar screwdrivers that he’d be willing to purchase. It may seem completely ludicrous that someone would be willing to pay for something so common, but evidence has shown that the Defense Department has been doing that for years.
The joke in the show is a direct reference to reports in the 1980s that the Pentagon was overspending on goods. A report found that purchases were being made by the US Military for “a $7,622 coffee maker, a $387 flat washer, a $469 wrench, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, a $659 ashtray and a $240- million airplane.”
This was not the first time something like this happened as a whistleblower named Ernest Fitzgerald revealed that $2 billion in cost overruns had taken place with purchases of Lockheed's massive C-5A transport aircraft in the 1960s. Of course, the constant waste never ended.
An internal study of the Pentagon initially found that the Pentagon has wasted about $125 billion. Other estimates however have the Defense Department wasting trillions of dollars which is significantly higher. There is not even much desire to use money effectively since it was confirmed that spare parts were being thrown away after purchase. Honestly, waste has gotten so bad that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called for an audit after finding out that the military spent $43 million to build a gas station in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the total amount of waste on the Pentagon is not fully known because since its inception, it has never been audited. This is odd not only because it would make sense to make sure its funds are being spent as efficiently as possible, but because since 1992 all federal agencies are supposed to be audited. However, the Defense Department has failed to comply each year.
There are are a lot of reasons about this failure to comply. One reason is significantly poor management of bookkeeping and severe oversight. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has said there are “serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable.”
However, there also seems to be an intentional noncompliance problem as well. Case in point, the Pentagon intentionally tried to bury the report that it had been wasting $125 billion. In addition, it turns out it has been using budget gimmicks to hide how much and on what it is really spending. To make matters more disturbing though, Mike McCord, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, has been dismissive of an audit by saying that organizing the organization’s books are not its “primary mission.”
Unsurprisingly, the Department of Defense’s failure to audit has actually gotten a strong rebuke from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has said, “All these actions, when taken together, appear to show a lack of independence and flagrant disregard for audit ethics, standards, evidence, and accepted practices.”
In response, there has become a strong bipartisan coalition that has been calling for an audit of the Pentagon. From budget hawks like Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) to anti-war doves like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), there is a large base of support for doing a full audit of the Pentagon. Once this is accomplished, we could get the ball rolling on cutting waste and therefore eliminating unnecessary spending.
Already, President Trump has gotten the ball rolling on an audit by nominating David Norquist for Comptroller of the Pentagon. David Norquist, brother of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President Grover Norquist, has promised a full audit of the Pentagon if confirmed for the position. Considering the fact that he previously audited the Department of Homeland of Security, he has the experience that qualifies him.
Norquist’s promised audit is not all that surprising since tax groups such as ATR and the National Taxpayers Union have both been calling for a full audit. Indeed, this would be a good move for taxpayers since their money would be spent more efficiently and this would mean less spending once waste is cut out from the budget, which translates to less taxes. All of these reasons clearly state why the Pentagon should be audited and going forward with it would be a victory for the American people.