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Why the Pentagon Doesn't Know How Much Anything Costs

Published: June 6, 2018
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“You don’t own that plane, the American taxpayers do.” – ‘Stinger’ in Top Gun

It is ridiculous, and in many respects it insults the American taxpayer.

(From Popular Mechanics)

Defense Secretary James Mattis made some frank remarks about the Pentagon’s budget woes last month. “I cannot right now look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound manner,” he said during a speech to graduating Air Force cadets in Colorado Springs, CO. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.”

It’s about darn time. (We seem to be saying that a lot these days.)

In testimony to Congress, Pentagon comptroller David Norquist disclosed that the Air Force identified 478 “structures and buildings” that are not listed in any Pentagon property tallies. Lest you think this is just a problem with buildings, an early Army audit found that 39 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were not recorded, either. These are not isolated cases, and the larger audit will uncover even more examples. There’s already been a leak from the audit, which says that Ernst & Young found the Defense Logistics Agency failed to document more than $800 million in construction projects.

This information is vital to managing costs, but it might lead to ugly debates down the road. Tallying up military construction allows one to identify any overlap in infrastructure so that redundant buildings can be closed and sold. But the process of “Base Realignment and Closure” is one that makes regional Congressional delegations bare their fangs and attack like wolverines. Politicians love the money that comes in from military bases and do not want to see empty buildings and bases in their districts.

The audit should cost about $367 million in 2018. “We also anticipate spending about $551 million in 2018 fixing problems identified by the auditors,” Norquist told Congress. Of course, he is just guessing at how much the audit will find—making him a possible future ironic victim of hopeful accounting.

Click here for the article.

*There are lots of things bigger and more egregious than just a few missing Black Hawks. That we can assure you. Good luck David Norquist.

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