The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Movement to Audit the Pentagon Gaining Speed

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Consensus in the nation’s capital is rare.  Agreement between Republicans and Democrats is typically confined to a belief that Washington, D.C. is miserably hot this time of year, and therefore the summer Congressional recess should last as long as possible.  With the release of the official party platforms for 2016, another area of consensus has emerged: auditing the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense (DOD) remains the sole federal agency that has not been audited.  Because of the Pentagon’s inability to keep track of its funding, the DOD has been on the Government Accountability Office’s list of programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement since 1995.

A July 20, 2016 Bloomberg article contained the criticisms of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who noted the DOD is the sole department covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 to have not received a clean audit.  According to Grassley, “The 25-year push to audit the books is stuck at a roadblock.  Billions of dollars have been spent trying to solve the root cause problem, but the fix is nowhere in sight.  And until it is, auditing the books will remain an elusive goal.”

The most recent Congressional action, occurred in April 2016, when the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act passed with an amendment requiring the Pentagon to rank military branches on their ability to complete an audit. 

Prior to that, on February 2, 2015, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va) introduced in the Senate S.327, the Audit the Pentagon act of 2015, with eight bipartisan cosponsors, including Republican presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).  An identical bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on the same day, and had eleven bipartisan cosponsors.  The bills died in the Senate and House Armed Services committees.

Of course, party platforms are nonbinding.  Still, auditing the Pentagon did not appear in either platform in 2012, so that is some progress.

Regardless of who wins the 2016 presidential election (or which party controls Congress), the notion of holding the DOD to the same standards as all other federal agencies is gaining steam.  Unfortunately, given its track record, it still seems unlikely that the Pentagon will produce an audit in the foreseeable future.

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