On November 15, the Pentagon announced that it completed its fourth consecutive annual audit, and received a fourth consecutive failing opinion.
The Pentagon paints merely conducting the audit as a success, despite the fact that it’s been a requirement under the law for the last 30 years for agencies to conduct – and pass – an annual audit.
The Department points to other signs of progress, such as the downgrading of one material weakness, and the closure of some 450 adverse findings.
However, the fact remains that the DOD is unable to accurately account for the billions of taxpayer dollars it spends each year.
Funding for the DOD is crucial to our national security.
Men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform and defend our country deserve to be well-paid and well-equipped.
In light of the rising threats around the globe, it is more crucial than ever that not one dollar is lost to fraud, waste or abuse.
A key underlying problem to the continued failed audits is the financial management systems used by the military departments.
The DOD uses hundreds of different systems that are outdated and unable to communicate with each other.
They cannot generate reliable transaction data, and are not auditable.
There are inadequate internal controls in financial management systems, presenting an environment ripe for waste and fraud.
Without internal controls at the transaction level, military leaders can’t know how much things cost.
I’ve tried to work with leaders at the department on this for years.
But time and again, I’ve been disappointed.
The Defense Department’s inability or unwillingness to make necessary and overdue changes is unacceptable.
I filed an amendment to the NDAA this year to address the root cause of the Pentagon’s failed audits.
The underlying bill provides for an independent commission tasked with examining the budgeting and planning processes at the Pentagon.
My amendment will require that commission to also make recommendations on bringing the financial management systems up to snuff.
The DOD will never be able to get a clean audit opinion while these systems remain unfixed, and the DOD has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to deploy an accounting system capable of capturing payment transactions and generating reliable data.
I’m glad that my amendment has been included in the substitute amendment and urge my colleagues to support this effort through to final passage to finally make real progress toward getting to a clean opinion.
Fiscal accountability and military readiness are not mutually exclusive.
It’s not an either/or scenario.
Earning a clean bill of fiscal health would strengthen military readiness and boost support for necessary increases to defense spending in Congress and among the American people.