The Pentagon has announced it’s ready for its first full financial audit, which would finally bring it in compliance with a 1990 law requiring federal agencies to pass muster in their annual financial reviews, according to Bloomberg News.
Ninety per cent of the Pentagon’s general funding will be under audit by an independent and public accounting firm for the fiscal year that began yesterday, Pentagon spokesman and Navy Commander William Urban told Bloomberg. A firm will be awarded the task in December, and will be placed in charge of reviewing financial statements totaling some $US883 billion. That includes more than $US266 billion for the Army, as well as $US187.8 billion for the Air Force and $US181.9 billion for the Navy.
Last year the Pentagon’s inspector general gave the Marine Corps a clean audit opinion for its fiscal 2012 budget — though Asif Khan, the Government Accountability Office’s director of financial management, is currently leading an investigation into whether this approval was justified.
The Pentagon’s ability to keep track of its own spending has alarmingly spotty over the past decade — especially as it has become saddled with the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In The Three Trillion Dollar War, economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes write that “Pentagon financial accounting is so poor and lacking in transparency that the department has never even come close to earning a clean financial opinion.”
A report for fiscal year 2006 found the Department of Defence’s accounting as “misleading,” “deficient,” and “inadequate.”
The book goes on to detail how poor accounting failed to track whether funding dollars went to the war effort or toward the department’s general expenses. Military spending accounts for over half of the US’s discretionary spending, a category that will itself represent almost a third of fiscal year 2015’s budget.
Last December Mother Jones magazine tracked how historically, the US’s defence spending has dropped after conflicts end. But the US is still involved in military operations in the Middle East — with troops set to remain in Afghanistan beyond year’s end, and a US-led bombing campaign against ISIS costing up to $10 million every day.
Still, the fact that the Pentagon is agreeing to this audit shows that it might be willing to think about reining in spending — even if it comes about 24 years too late.
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