Shock and Audit: Mission Impossible
Is defense reform a lost cause?
Is defense reform a lost cause? To answer that question, MoJo talked to defense experts, mined years of GAO reports and congressional testimony, and found that the same themes crop up again and again. Here are the main problems that defense reforms almost always fail to truly address:
- The Pentagon doesn't know where its money goes. In fact, its accounting systems are so spectacularly busted that it's impossible to even conduct an audit of the agency, which has been on the Government Accountability Office's high-risk list since 1995. Its computer programs are prehistoric and don't connect the money that comes in with the money that goes out. There is no reliable way to detect when contractors are overbilling. DOD's various agencies and services maintain 2,480 different systems to manage procurement, finances, and logistics, many of which aren't interlinked. Often, reams of vital data must be entered by hand. All of this creates myriad possibilities for fraud and abuse. Over the past few decades, the government has spent billions to modernize the DOD's bookkeeping, but to no avail. Consequently, no one really knows for sure how much the Pentagon has spent, is spending, or should spend on weapons. Instead, the government essentially relies on information from private contractors to make budget decisions.