In the two decades since Congress passed a law stating that all government agencies had to be audited on a yearly basis, the armed forces and Department of Defense have never complied. It has become such an embarrassment that when the U.S. Marine Corps passed an audit in 2013, it was lauded as a huge step forward and celebrated in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
“I know that it might seem a bit unusual to be in the Hall of Heroes to honor a bookkeeping accomplishment, but, damn, this is an accomplishment,” said then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the ceremony in February 2014.
Unfortunately, it appears that the celebration was not only too soon, it was completely undeserved.
In March 2015, the Department of Defense’s Inspector-General withdrew its unqualified approval of the audit, claiming that new information shed doubt on the results of the audit. An investigation by Reuters found that the auditors of the Marine Corp, the outside firm Grant Thornton LLP, knew that the Marine Corps would not pass before they gave them an unqualified approval score.
Grant Thornton has had problems with accounting practices previously, and emails show that Grant Thornton allowed uncorroborated numbers from the Marine Corps without verifying the actual amounts. Additionally, confidential reports concerning the audit were sent to Grant Thornton from the IG’s office.
The Pentagon has since withdrawn the audit report and is working to revise and fix the problems with it.
“Our original unmodified opinion is not reliable,” wrote Deputy Inspector General for Auditing Daniel Blair. “Once additional information has been gathered and analyzed, the FY 2012 audit opinion will be revised accordingly and reissued.”
Although the Department of Defense is a sprawling organization, the failure, after more than 20 years, of even being able to present an unqualifiable audit is just embarrassing. No one has ever claimed that our government is efficient, but this is ridiculous.
The deadline for having an unqualifiable audit has been extended, for all branches of the military, to 2017. The Department of Defense has two years to get its house in order and be able to show where the billions of dollars they have received have gone. Unfortunately, after twenty years of failure, no one is holding out much hope that any branch will be able to get their act together in just two years.
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