WASHINGTON, DC - Last year, the Department of Defense completed its first ever audit. The audit was mandated by Congress and members of the House Armed Services Committee made its completion a bi-partisan priority. The Pentagon’s ability to produce unmodified or “clean” audits is critical to oversight efforts and will be valuable in enhancing the agility of America’s military.
While the 2018 audit found important weaknesses in DOD systems, it did not reveal the vast waste some had hoped it would uncover. Indeed, many have overstated the audit's purpose, scope, or potential as part of an argument to reduce DOD resources. As DOD undergoes it’s FY2019 audit, it is useful to look at some of these claims and see how they hold up:
DOD Can’t Even Account for What It Has
MYTH: While DOD knows how many major weapons platforms it has, DOD does not have accurate accountability of inventory at lower levels.
FACT: While the audit did reveal that DOD has less physical infrastructure in some areas than was previously thought, the audit also confirmed that the Army, Navy, and Air Force could account for the existence and completeness of major military equipment.
We Don’t Know Where the Money is Going
MYTH: Without an audit, Congress is unable to track where a significant portion of DOD’s budget is going.
FACT: Audits are not the only oversight tool at Congress’ disposal. In fact, the entire Department of Defense’s budget request, authorizations, and appropriations are public documents. There are many ways to confirm that funds are being spent appropriately. The FY2018 audit found that the services could account for their equipment, that civilian and military pay could be accounted for, and there was no evidence of fraud.
Cost Growth for Major Programs Could Have Been Prevented with An Audit
MYTH: Cost overruns for major acquisition programs like the F-35 or the Ford- Class Aircraft Carrier could have been avoided if DOD had undergone an audit earlier.
FACT: Overruns in these programs were most often the result of policy decisions based on strategy, threats, and risk - not accounting errors. Other big-ticket items, like the Columbia Class Submarine, were under development in the same period and have not experienced the same cost overruns.
An Audit Will Show Congress Where It Can Make Major Cuts to DOD
MYTH: An audit will demonstrate that the Pentagon can operate with fewer resources simply by cutting waste.
FACT: While the audit found real flaws in how DOD’s business systems collect financial information and connect with each other, it did not identify any areas of large-scale waste. In reality, DOD’s budget is driven by the threats we face and the strategic choices Congress and the President make to meet them.