It now appears that Defense Department auditors have been unable to oversee tens of billions of dollars in military spending because of manpower shortfalls, leaving the Pentagon “more vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse.” The Defense Department’s inspector general, in a report to Congress obtained by a watchdog group, admitted its internal auditors have been unable to keep pace with the expansion in the military budget in recent years. According to the report, the defense budget doubled to $600 billion in fiscal 2007 from $300 billion in fiscal 2000, while the number of auditors essentially remained constant. That left individual auditors responsible for more than $2 billion each in defense spending last year, up from the $642 million each auditor had to oversee in 2000.
It appears that large amounts of military spending have received little to no oversight, according to the report. The Pentagon watchdogs were able to “provide sufficient audit coverage” to just $158 billion of the $316 billion the Pentagon spent on weapons acquisitions last year. The audit personnel wrote:
The capabilities of the [inspector general] are not keeping pace, in terms of qualified personnel, with the growth in the size of the defense budget and the numbers of contracts. The continual degradation of audit resources…leaves the Department more vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse and undermines the department’s mission.
Recent military-contracting scandals and fraud cases have been a matter of great concern. It now appears that the lack of enough trained auditors to prevent such abuses from occurring in the first place is a real problem. In the spring of 2005, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction concluded that U.S. officials overseeing small reconstruction projects in 2003 and 2004 failed to keep proper records on $89.4 million and couldn’t account at all for an additional $7.2 million. According to the inspector general, at least some of the money appeared to have been stolen. Military officials at the time contributed the failings, in part, to a lack of adequate numbers of government auditors. The March self-assessment by the Pentagon auditors was written at the direction of Congress and obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog group in Washington. Nick Schwellenbach, the group’s national security investigator, commented;
The Pentagon’s top cop is outgunned and it’s high noon. It’s stunning that we’ve been spending so much for so long with so little oversight.
In this year’s budget, Congress approved an additional $24 million for Pentagon auditors. But the auditors, according to the report, will need at least $25 million more to meet their requirements. The Pentagon inspector general said it plans to hire at least 481 personnel in the next seven years, expanding to more than 1,900 full-time employees. If our government is going to be capable of stopping fraud and abuse when it comes to government contracts, Congress must provide the funds necessary for auditors and other personnel required to investigate fraud and corruption.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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