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Dr. Burgess and Grover Norquist in USA TODAY: Audit the Pentagon

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Washington, July 14, 2017 | comments

Audit the Pentagon before we increase defense spending by tens of billions
Dr. Michael Burgess and Grover Norquist
USA TODAY
July 14, 2017

It is time to audit the Pentagon.

In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act requiring every department and agency in the federal government to produce verifiable financial statements that can be fully audited. To date, each major agency has been able to complete this task except one — the Department of Defense (DOD).

This is unacceptable.

Right now our nation is facing a real crisis. The U.S. debt is teetering on the edge of $20 trillion and our servicemen and women are finding themselves without all the resources required to fulfill their missions and defend our country. The DOD is one of the largest employers in the world, with over 2.8 million active duty servicemen and women, national guardsmen, reservists, and civilians. In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon budget reached nearly $600 billion. Our country faces many threats. We must provide for America’s national defense while still being responsible with taxpayer dollars.

The Founding Fathers noted the importance of defense in the very first line of the United States Constitution. Congress initially created the War Department in 1789, but following World War II, President Truman proposed a new defense structure. Even at this time in our history, we were spending more on defense than the government could afford. In his proposal to Congress, President Truman cited wasteful military spending as a reason for demanding a more unified and accountable defense department.

In the last 70 years, not much has changed. In 2014, the Marine Corps announced it had successfully passed an audit, but had to retract its announcement upon further scrutiny. The Defense Business Board, an organization of private sector executives whose purpose is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the DOD, issued a report in January 2015 revealing at least $125 billion in administrative waste with a bottom line that “we are spending a lot more money than we thought.”

The Government Accountability Office — Congress’ eyes and ears on the ground for keeping the federal government accountable — stated in 2013 that it could not complete an audit of the entire federal government because the DOD could not produce verifiable documents. According to GAO’s assessment, “The main obstacles to a GAO opinion on … consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable.”

Imagine average Americans citing the complexity of their finances for their failure to comply with an IRS audit.

The first step to reining in our spending and getting waste under control is a full audit of the federal government. The Pentagon must conform to the same level of accountability that other public sector agencies are held to when it comes to the spending of taxpayer dollars. The national defense is too important to remain a black box.

The Trump administration is proposing a military buildup with an increase in the defense budget of at least $54 billion, to be paid for in part by eliminating waste. That is a great deal of money. American taxpayers have the right to know how and how well their taxes have been spent in the last few years.

What did those tax dollars buy? How many tanks do we have? Where are they? Do they still work? If Americans need to sacrifice more to maintain our military strength, step one is to have a fully informed citizenry. A full audit of the Pentagon will make it clear how much we have spent, what we bought with our money, and what we need for the future.

Read the full op-ed in USA TODAY here


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