The Pentagon is on track for its first-ever agency-wide audit, but will the audit hold any surprises? In case you missed it, Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, and Caroline Dorminey, research assistant, had an op-ed in Defense One this week, discussing the audit and what it may uncover.
Beyond the obvious accounting of assets—an estimated $2.4 trillion worth, including everything from infrastructure to personnel to weapon systems—an audit will create opportunities for careful consideration about the best use of military dollars.
Why has it taken this long for the Pentagon to be audited? Preble and Dorminey discuss common criticisms that have stood in the way of reviewing the military's books. Some argue that an audit might expose sensitive information, yet Congress regularly debates the defense budget out in the open. The only thing missing from the public eye is knowledge of how dollars are actually spent and whether they deliver a return on investment. Others argue that the armed forces are too busy safeguarding liberty, and shouldn't have to be subject to rigorous examinations of fiscal responsibility. Yet if all other government agencies are subject to audits, there's no reason the Pentagon should be exempt.
Preble and Dorminey argue that there will likely be few surprises:
Some of the Pentagon’s worst examples of wastefulness are already common knowledge. A $125 billion bureaucratic waste report (albeit with questionable methodology) made headlines this time last year. The General Accounting Office regularly reports on the Pentagon’s struggle to produce weapons systems in a timely fashion. One of the largest single line items in the budget, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, has been plagued by everything from software struggles to production delays to cost overruns. Some muse that the entire enterprise might be a $1 trillion mistake. Similarly, the Littoral Combat Ship program has long been associated with inefficiency. Its new acquisition strategy doesn’t seem to be making things better. The worst of the worst in the DOD’s gargantuan budget will likely be the things that policymakers and the public already know about.
More importantly, they make a case that the audit is an opporunity for us to rethink the roles our armed forces play, and to decide what sort of resources are best used in furthering those missions.
You can read the full op-ed, "What to Expect from the Pentagon's First-Ever Audit," here.