December 3, 2023

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The Pentagon fails its sixth consecutive review

The Pentagon fails its sixth consecutive review

The Pentagon failed its annual audit for the sixth year in a row, according to the Defense Department’s chief financial officer.

Of the department’s 29 individual subaudits, only seven passed this year, the same as the previous year, Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters Wednesday.

Another student was rated “qualified” — a fall short of passing — while three students were still continuing and 18 received failing grades, with no fraud found, he said.

All sub-audits must be passed in order to be approved for the comprehensive audit.

McCord said that although “things are showing progress,” overall it is “not enough.”

He added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “feels we need to do a better job on this and move faster,” but a successful audit is still years away.

Federal law since the early 1990s has required mandatory audits of all government agencies. The Pentagon did not begin auditing itself until 2018 and has only seen incremental improvement annually.

This time, 1,600 auditors scrutinized the Defense Department’s $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities, making about 700 site visits. They found that half of the Department of Defense’s assets could not be accounted for.

The auditing process is difficult for the Pentagon because of the sheer size and scope of the department. The Department of Defense accounts for more than half of US discretionary spending, and its assets are widely diversified, covering personnel, supplies, bases, and weapons.

McCord admitted last year that each audit “became a little more difficult” because “a lot of the low-hanging fruit was picked,” meaning simpler problems had already been fixed.

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Lawmakers have taken note of the trend of botched audits, and earlier this year, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to ensure the Department of Defense passes a clean audit next year. The bill comes in the wake of repeated concerns from Congress about fraud, waste and abuse at the Pentagon.

Asked Thursday whether the botched vetting process sends a bad message to America’s adversaries and allies alike, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the effort is an “ongoing, ongoing process.”

“Although the results were not what we wanted, we certainly learn every time the audit is done,” she told reporters.

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