For most businesses, an audit is a yearly thing. They bring in an outside source to go through the books and make sure the way they record activities within the business are on the up and up. This is also a way to quickly find and correct errors. The benefit of on-going audits and the attached accountability seems to have been lost on the Department of Defense. They have avoided any accounting as far as backing up their often out of control spending, they merely never allowed anyone to audit their books.
Decades of avoiding an audit ended as President Trump entered the White House. The president ordered a full review of each part of the Department of Defense including all of the armed services and the Pentagon. This audit is now in full swing and employs 1200 outside auditors. They are already tackling $21 trillion in secret spending that slipped passed the Obama White House.
It is not clear this early in the audit if the $21 trillion is missing or if it was recorded wrong. The Army has already stepped forward to share that there were issues with the way they recorded and tracked property. At one point, there were missing $830 million worth of helicopters.
The helicopters were not, in fact, missing; they just were not entered into the right computer. One might hope that it would be a priority to keep track of expensive equipment like a state of the art helicopter, but this seemed to be of little concern to the Army. Perhaps years of free-spending left them with the feeling like they were not so concerned with where everything ended up since they could just buy more. The 39 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters just did not raise an eyebrow as they went missing.
Mysterious spending from the Army may become one of the most significant issues of the audit. The current audit is looking at documents from 1998 to 2015. They have already looked at 13 of those years for the Army and found that there were $11.5 trillion in unexplained adjustments made to the budget.
The Army is not the only part of the armed services coming under suspicion. While the Army could not keep track of their helicopters, the Air Force lost full-sized buildings. They did not correctly record 478 buildings and structures that are currently a part of 12 bases. This means the buildings were bought but never owned according to their records.
Between the Army losing helicopters and the Air Force not being able to find a building on their base, it seems part of the problems with the lack of audits is tied to the Department of Defense not taking responsibility for its property or real estate holdings.
As if the issues with missing helicopters and buildings is not enough, the armed forces have also lost people in the mix. It seems that the systems that they use to track both those enlisted and civilian employees are not what it should be. To put it bluntly, there is no real system that all of the DoD uses to track where any single employee is at a given time.
According to the World Economic Forum, the DoD is “…the largest employer in the world with some 3.2 million members on its payroll and $2.4 trillion in assets but has never administered a full audit.” Of the 3.2 million members, there are currently 44,000 listed as being in an unknown status. These are active service members that the military records have essentially lost.
These are not employees that are serving in some top secret capacity. These are also not service members that have been deployed. At one point, the system that was tracking some of the employees ran into an issue with information not being entered at all. The people entering data about employee assignments just did not add all the required information. The solution for these errors was not to find out where the workers were, but instead, enter a code that meant the system had no idea where they were. It is more than a little unsettling to realize the armed services were not able to locate their own employees.
The take away for the early stages of the audit seems to focus on the lack of skill the military applies to tracking everything under its control. It is no wonder they have lost 44,000 employees who may be on the move. They have not figured out how to keep track of 478 buildings that have never moved.