The fact that the Pentagon spends funds on unneeded and/or unused equipment is far from news. However, the Reuters investigation revealed that the waste is far beyond what was previously known.
Much of the wasteful spending is done by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a fact which they apparently recognize.
“We have about $14 billion of inventory for lots of reasons, and probably half of that is excess to what we need,” said Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, the director of the DLA, to aviation industry executives in August.
As of September 30, 2012, the DLA and military services had on order some $733 million worth of excess supplies. As defined by the Department of Defense, “excess inventory” includes anything that exceeds a three-year supply.
Some of the Pentagon’s purchases appear to make very little sense.
Despite having a 14-year supply of a part of the front suspension of military Humvees as of November 2008, the DLA purchased more. An April 2013 Pentagon inspector general report noted that the Pentagon bought 7,437 more from 2010 through 2012 at prices higher than the massive number already in storage.
The military is now in the process destroying huge stockpiles of supplies that have become useless, like 480 pounds of C4 explosives, and thousands of other munitions.
Stephen Abney, the spokesman for the Joint Munitions Command, said that over one-third of the weapons and munitions held at command depots are obsolete.
“Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year,” Reuters reports.
Yet it is cheaper in the short term for the military to store the equipment than to destroy it, according to Keith Byers, ammunition manager at Letterkenny Joint Munitions Command store.
Still, the military is forced to destroy some equipment, and Letterkenny recently received funding to destroy 15,000 recoilless rifles that were last used in World War II.
One of the larger problems, however, is the lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to Pentagon spending.
Reuters reports that their investigation found that the Pentagon appears to be unable to keep track of their huge collection of equipment.
Indeed, they report that the Pentagon now has a backlog of over $500 billion in unaudited contracts and the department “repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years.”
In a September 2012 report, the Pentagon inspector general found that the Army alone lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011, something which left some units with equipment shortages.
The Pentagon does not comply with the law requiring annual audits of all government departments, leaving $8.5 trillion in funding allocated by Congress since 1996 unaccounted for.
Legislation passed in 2009 requires the Defense Department to be ready for an audit by 2017, but Reuters believes this deadline will not be met. They point out that the Pentagon uses thousands of different, outdate and mostly incompatible accounting systems.
An advisory group of business leaders appointed by the secretary of defense reported in January 2012 that the Pentagon was using some 5,000 different accounting and business systems, though no one knows for sure how many systems are in use.
The Reuters report troublingly notes that some defense agencies would put false numbers into reports in order to make their books comport with those of the Treasury. Indeed, the Reuters investigation found that “fudging the accounts with false entries is standard operating procedure” in many defense agencies.
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