Pentagon Issues BOLOs for Missing Weapons, Seeks More Creative Accountants
Or: “If you see my Little Green Submarine, please send her home to me”, a new blues song written by Chuck Hagel. Gee, golly whillikers; let’s make it a contest! Update old songs like: ‘My MRAP can’t seem to find its way home‘, a fractured cover of a good Stevie Winwood tune.
In a two-part investigative report on Pentagon accounting failures, Reuters announced that since 1996 at least 8.5 trillion taxpayer dollars are virtually unaccountable. And that’s just the public version of the defense budget, mind you. In 2012, the Pentagon’s budget was $565.8 billion, greater than the annual defense budgets of the 10 next largest military spenders combined, including Russia and China. How much of that money is spent as intended is impossible to determine.
Why? Because FUBAR, that’s why, of course. And: SOP, to boot.
Yeah, forget the high prices for toilet seats, ashtrays and $8000 coffee makers. The billions of known waste and fraud amounts to plenty of billions of bucks, and as they say: ‘Sooner of later those billions add up to some Major Money!’ (In an amusing side note, that was the name and rank of the former Comptroller of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS (pronounced “DEE-fass”), who was replaced by Jeff Yokel (srsly), who spent 17 years in senior positions in DFAS’s Cleveland office; or maybe that was just a rumor).
Anyhoo, DFAS was set up by our friend Dick Darth Cheney, then SecDef, in 1991. In Part I of the Reuters investigative report, ‘How the Pentagon’s payroll quagmire traps soldiers’, what they discovered was an egregious mish-mash of
non-accounting programs that often delayed or disappeared military pay from wounded privates to Generals, and in many cases permanently without redress. Some were paid double, oh, dear oh dear. One General’s pay was stopped, and since stopped payments meant deceased to the computer software, a condolence letter was sent to his family.
Ah hell; “We’re not out to screw our own people; the military pay system is just very complex”, said Military Comptroller Robert Hale.
“DFAS, for its part, inherited a pay operation that even at the time was an antique – a 20-year-old Air Force system that DFAS renamed the Defense Joint Military Pay System, or DJMS. It ran, and still runs, on Cobol, a computer language that dates to 1959. Most of the Cobol code the Pentagon uses for payroll and accounting was written in the 1960s. Wallace, the Army assistant deputy chief of staff, says the system has “seven million lines of Cobol code that hasn’t been updated” in more than a dozen years, and significant parts of the code have been “corrupted.” The older it gets, the harder it is to maintain.
Not to mention, the program is so old, no manuals exist any longer, so…no fixes are possible, they say. FUBAR, in other words.
It turns out that the Defense Department is the only federal agency that has never passed an audit. It skirts, it deceives, delays, flouts federal laws, and is now gearing up to kinda/sorta comply with an audit date of 2017 mandated by Congress in 2009. Ya, know, so our elected officials can make sure that the Pentagon’s figures tally with Treasury’s figures. This is one of my favorite parts
But wait! There’s more! More Pentagon jobs programs in their BOLO in the title above:
Two days every month, the different military branches dump numbers onto the desks of DFAS employees; their jobs are to make them add up. When they don’t they’re just told to make shit up, as in: ‘Be Creative: Plug them!. Plugs amounted to false figures that would make the checkbook…balance. If they eventually discovered the basis for some of baffling and undocumentable expenditures, so much the better; if not, oh well. the faked numbers abide still. The practice isn’t confined to DFAS, but spread across all operational agencies, of course.
Essentially Reuters found out that the Pentagon doesn’t just fail to keep track of their vast payroll, but doesn’t even know where a whole lotta their stuff even is, nor how many of the things there are, from weapons to ships to Humvees to parts to pretty much everything. They report that disorganization in the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which is responsible for buying and storing weapons, ammunition and many other supplies, caused repeated expenditure on supplies it already possessed. One official mentioned they were in the process of a doing a ‘Clean out the attic’ endeavor.
In our house, government contracts are a favorite topic, especially building projects large and small, many with cost overruns built into the system, if not the contracts themselves. What Reuters discovered was that the ‘fixed price’ contracts can be closed out in individual audits by the Defense Contract Management Agency. But get this: at the end of fiscal 2011, contracts for actual expenses incurred, the agency’s backlog totaled 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion, according to DCAA figures, some of them date as far back as 1996. And the branches of the military allegedly audit their own contracts; the Army’s backlog is 450,000 contracts, according to the GAO. Fraud, waste, overpayment, kickbacks, bribes, who the hell knows?
Consider that this is just the Defense Department, and imagine that similar abuses are occurring in other parts of the Security Apparatus. Then consider what everyday people are suffering every goddam day in the USA from poverty, joblessness, hopelessness, lack of medical care and housing, gutted pensions and 401k’s. Unspeakable ugliness that there’s always another check for the Empire, but not for you unemployment benefits, or your Social Security checks, or your kids’ Medicaid.
Yeah, we’ll know that things are gettin’ better when the military has to hold a yard sale after ‘Cleaning Out Some of the Extra Shit in Its Attic’ to fund itself, and we get what we deserve: a stipend just for being alive, as the Swiss are considering.