Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is among House Republicans calling for an audit of the Biden administration’s spending in Ukraine, which now tops $100 billion and is growing.
But perhaps GOP lawmakers, who pledge to be fiscally conscious with President Joe Biden in the White House, should look at America’s own defense forces.
Last month, the Defense Department failed its annual audit and could not account for 61% of the $3.5 trillion in assets it owns.
It is the fifth consecutive audit the Pentagon has failed, according to an agency press release. The downside is that the agency has faced only five audits.
Michael McCord, an undersecretary of defense who serves as the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, said the outcome was unchanged from last year and expected.
The audit is a massive undertaking, involving analyses of 27 separate agencies.
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Those reviews cover 2.9 million employees, and more than 643,000 physical assets — buildings, structures, utilities, roads and fences, and more — spread over almost 4,900 sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, seven U.S. territories, and more than 40 foreign countries.
The audit also looks at the assets needed to serve 9.6 million active duty personnel, military retirees, and their families across the U.S. and overseas who receive health care from the Defense Department.
“We failed to get an ‘A,’” McCord, who served in this post under former President Barack Obama before leaving during the Trump administration, told reporters recently.
“I would not say that we flunked. The process is important for us to do, and it is making us get better. It is not making us get better as fast as we want.”
While McCord claimed the audit indicated progress toward documenting the Pentagon’s spending and assets, he acknowledged that the agency has already plucked the “lower hanging fruit” that could make the audit cleaner.
Congress had passed laws requiring the Defense Department to undergo an audit like all other federal agencies.
The process was implemented under former President Donald Trump to meet a congressional deadline, and according to The Washington Post in 2017, launched a year after the Obama administration buried a report that indicated the Pentagon wasted $125 billion on administrative costs. Defense officials were concerned that lawmakers may use the report as a reason to slash spending.