The Marine Corps didn't appropriately account for nearly $1 billion in 2012 -- the year the Pentagon celebrated that the Marine Corps had completed its first financial audit.
However, the Pentagon Inspector General reversed the approval of the audit after it discovered the Marine Corps didn't properly account for $800 million in funds in 2012, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.
The Pentagon has spent two decades trying to get their financial books in order to successful complete a full audit even as the military spends upwards of $500 billion per year. In 1994, Congress passed a law stating the Pentagon must complete an audit by 1997. Eighteen years have passed and no services have been able to accomplish the feat.
The Center for Public Integrity published a comprehensive report on the efforts the Pentagon has made over the past two decades to accomplish a full audit. It's certainly worth a read.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, probably captured the problem the best, though.
"We can’t effectively identify areas to reduce spending if we don’t know how much, and where, we’re spending that money in the first place," Carper said. "This is more than just a disagreement among accountants; it raises questions about the Department’s basic financial practices."
Put more succinctly, the U.S. military loses credibility when it says it can't afford programs or a certain number of troops because of budget cuts if it can't properly say how it's spending its budget.
The Army is cutting tens of thousands of soldiers. If the Army could effectively account for its budget, would those soldiers still have careers?
When the Air Force says it can no longer afford the A-10, is that necessarily true if the service can't say how much it spent year over year?
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at Michael.Hoffman@military.com