By Martin Matishak
A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would impose penalties on the Defense Department if the agency fails meet a legally mandated goal of being fully auditable by September 2017.
The bill – sponsored by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) and Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) – calls for increased oversight every year the department fails to meet the target and would eventually strip the Pentagon’s ability to reprogram and transfer funds between its accounts.
“One of best ways to find the most accurate information about our military’s spending and priorities is to shed light on the Department of Defense budget without jeopardizing our national security secrets,” Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
“It is simply unacceptable that the Department of Defense is the only major federal agency that has not completed a financial audit. Our bill will help to solve that problem,” he added.
Since 1997, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been required to audit the federal government’s consolidated financial statements, but the watchdog agency has repeatedly said its reviews of the Pentagon are not based on accurate data.
In 2010, it was determined that nearly $6 billion spent to improve the agency’s financial information was unsuccessful and GAO could not predict when the DOD would be able to provide these financial statements.
DOD “must be held to at least the same standard as any other federal agency –Americans need to know where their hard-earned money went, and what they got for it. This bill means more transparency and more accountability for taxpayer dollars,” Wyden said.
Conversely, the bill would reward the Pentagon if it met the fiscal goal, including greater ability to move funds.
Last week, Manchin asked the chiefs of four armed service branches how DOD was coming along in meeting the 2017 goal.
“We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re making progress and we should be prepared by ’17 to meet that goal,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said.
Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert said his service was “on track” to meet the 2017 finish line.