(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement today regarding the “Audit the Pentagon Act,” (S. 3487) a bill that creates new incentives and enforcement mechanisms to force the Pentagon to pass an audit. Other original cosponsors include Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
“By failing to pass an audit, the Pentagon has undermined our national security. This bill ends the culture of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ budgeting within the Pentagon that says, ‘don’t ask us how we’re spending money because we can’t tell you.’ When the Pentagon can’t tell Congress, or itself, how it is spending money good programs face cuts along with wasteful programs, which is the situation in which we find ourselves today under sequestration. In short, this bill helps the Pentagon help itself. Passing an audit is a critical step that will protect vital priorities and help the Pentagon comply with current law and our Constitution,” Dr. Coburn said.
“I truly believe that the United States of America can – and must – have the greatest military force in the world. But with our Department of Defense paying contractors four times what we’re paying the Secretary of Defense while considering laying off our service members, it’s clear that our priorities are out of balance,” Senator Manchin said. “We need to make sure that we’re using our limited resources in the best way possible to support the men and women in uniform. One of best ways to do that is to shed light on the Department of Defense budget, without jeopardizing our national security secrets.”
“The leadership in the Pentagon cannot make good decisions on bad information. With a broken accounting system and loss of control of the money at the transaction level, the leadership has no idea where the money is going or how much things cost. That is unacceptable and irresponsible and needs to be corrected now. Senator Coburn’s bill would help to put pressure on the department to balance the books,” said Grassley.
“In light of our nation’s current fiscal challenges, creating a culture of fiscal efficiency at the Department of Defense is more important than ever, and this bill is the first step to ushering in more responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars at the Pentagon,” said Cornyn.
“As a business owner for over 30 years, I know the value and importance of a comprehensive audit of an organization’s finances. A clear picture of how dollars are spent enables you to prioritize critical missions and eliminate waste. I want to thank Senator Coburn for his leadership on this issue, and I hope that the Senate passes this legislation promptly,” said Johnson.
“It’s not just a matter of accountability – it’s a matter of national security that the Pentagon be able to account for the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. “How can we protect taxpayer dollars from waste and abuse, or set the priorities for protecting our freedoms, if the Defense Department can’t even tell us how these vast sums of money are being spent? This legislation is bipartisan, it’s common sense, and it’ll take some big steps toward stronger accountability over federal spending.”
Key provisions and findings of the “Audit the Pentagon Act”:
- Unlike the rest of the federal government, the Department of Defense has never fully complied with several laws on financial management.
- This bill creates two important incentives for the Pentagon to meet its audit schedule:
1) Pentagon will have increased authority to reprogram funds without congressional approval. (notification is still required)
2) Pentagon will have some report requirements ended and will tell Congress which reports are obsolete
- The bill also creates three new accountability and enforcement mechanisms:
1) No new major weapon system can progress past research and development until the Pentagon can audit its books
2) Creation of a Chief Management Officer empowered to fix the Pentagon’s finances and IT problems
3) Defense Finance and Accounting Service is transferred to Treasury – who does payments for the rest of the federal government
Text of the bill, here.