2/01/2020

Unaccountable Accounting in the Pentagon

"Phrased differently (and more to the point): taxpayers, holders of US dollars, and investors in US government debt securities would, regardless of the underlying circumstances, much rather see the national debt reported to the penny than estimated. Exactness as in this case is almost certainly impossible, but serves an evangelical purpose: the state, Kuznets suggests, must in some ways represent itself as a tirelessly responsible custodian of the funds collected by it or invested in it. 

Or so it was. Clearly that mandate – consider it a principle of good statecraft – has long since been abandoned. Until 2018, in fact, the Pentagon had actually avoided the legal requirement of an annual audit for decades. Yet when, in 2018, it had one, it failed miserably. The response from the deputy secretary of defense? “We failed the audit. We never expected to pass it.”

That kind of response makes spending $7,622 on a coffee pot seem quaint: it was, at least, an accurate number. Maybe. “Improper payments,” defined as funds flowing without approval or documentation, rose to $1.2 billion from $957 million between 2017 and 2018."