Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste
For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars
Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.
Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.
And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. “A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,” Woodford says. “We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.”
The data flooded in just two days before deadline. As the clock ticked down, Woodford says, staff were able to resolve a lot of the false entries through hurried calls and emails to Navy personnel, but many mystery numbers remained. For those, Woodford and her colleagues were told by superiors to take “unsubstantiated change actions” – in other words, enter false numbers, commonly called “plugs,” to make the Navy’s totals match the Treasury’s…
After the monthly reports were sent to Treasury, the accountants continued to seek accurate information to correct the entries. In some instances, they succeeded. In others, they didn’t, and the unresolved numbers stood on the books.
Read it and weep, folks! The Pentagon realized decades ago that they are untouchable. When the War Department became the Defense Department, after the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about completed their triumph over Congress and the White House – the official religion of the United States put on a uniform and required focus only on “our brave defenders” and not the profiteers whose invoices and charges remained unchallenged in perpetuity.
Why mandate accountability at the consumption end when there is little or none at the production and profit end? We hear the rare voice lifted by some poor shlub in the Pentagon that they really don’t need 1500 more gold-plated toilet seats at $6000 apiece. Immediately followed by three political hacks in Congress screaming blue murder that 47 constituents in their home district will have to look for work elsewhere if this is allowed. And that is sufficient to put a halt to the idea.
It’s a long, detailed verifiable article. A worthwhile read. One that will anger you sufficiently – I hope – to holler at your elected Congress-critters and demand action. At a minimum.
It is nice to see BTW that although I fear the Thompson cartel’s purchase of Reuters is trying to steer news-gathering down the primrose path of conservative ideology, they haven’t yet succeeded in crushing the tradition of honest investigative reporting.