My friend Mike Connelly e-mailed me a link to an article on the Antimedia web site pointing out the lack of auditing or spending controls by the Pentagon, along with a helpful graphic showing just how much the Department of Defense has spent since 1996.
The article was based on a three-part series in Reuters news service in 2013 about how nobody knew exactly how much money was being spent or for what, and the general lack of financial control.
As one example, Scot Paltrow quoted Admiral Mark Harnicheck, head of the Defense Logistics Agency, as saying “we have about $14 billion in inventory for various reasons, and probably half of that is in excess of what me need.” Note the “probably.” He didn’t really know
The Reuters articles reminded me of a similar series in the Washington Post in 2010 reporting the same situation in regard to secret intelligence and national security agencies. There, too, nobody knew the extent of what was being done, how much was being spent or whether it was effective.
Claire Bernish, author of the Antimedia article, was rightly concerned about money being wasted being wasted on the military that could be better spent on other national priorities or left in the pockets of American taxpayers.
I have another concern. Just how effective can the U.S. armed forces be if the Secretary of Defense can’t set priorities or know just what the department’s budget is being spent for?
I have often quoted the figure that the United States spends more money than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the other seven biggest military spenders put together. But if the Department of Defense can’t track how it spends its money, how do we know this spending is making the U.S. military more effective.
I recall how U.S. troops were sent into Iraq without adequate body armor and vehicle armor to protect against IEDs (improvised explosive devices), how Congress and the public had to pressure the Department of Defense to provide the proper equipment and the many months that went by before the equipment was actually supplied.
There was no difficulty, however, in spending money for comfortable accommodations in the protected Green Zone, where the headquarters troops worked.
I am not sure it is even possible to establish adequate inventory and spending controls with a system so big and constantly in flux. In the old days, department stores would shut down for a day to take inventory. Nowadays, chain stores such as Walmart have electronic systems to keep track of inventory. But I don’t see how such a system could be introduced without a baseline of accurate information to begin with.
Then, too, military spending is so intertwined with American business that an abrupt cutback could be disruptive to the economy as a whole, unless there were some plan to cushion the impact.
My great fear for my country is that the USA’s biggest institutions have become un-reformable. This is the defining characteristic of empires in decline—that they have great power to wage war and crush opponents, but are powerless to change themselves.
The Pentagon Doesn’t Know What It Spent 8.5 Trillion Dollars On by Claire Bernish for AntiMedia. (Hat tip to Mike Connelly).
How the Pentagon’s payroll quagmire traps American soldiers by Scot J. Paltrow and Kelly Carr for Reuters (2013).
Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste by Scot J. Paltrow for Reuters (2013).
Why the Pentagon’s many campaigns to clean up its accounts are failing by Scot J. Paltrow for Reuters (2013).
A hidden world, growing beyond control by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin for the Washington Post. (2010)
National Security Inc. by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin for the Washington Post (2010).
The secrets next door by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin for the Washington Post (2010).
Monitoring America by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin for the Washington Post (2010).