Pentagon Can't Account for $800 Million, Report Shows

A Pentagon agency has lost track of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to an internal audit, which is a troubling sign for the military’s ability to oversee its massive $700 billion budget.

The audit, conducted by Ernst and Young and first reported by Politico, discovered the Defense Logistics Agency could not account for roughly $800 million in construction projects and had no documentation to show for it. The Defense Logistics Agency is one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies––employing roughly 25,000 people––and processes hundreds of thousands of orders daily for the various branches of the military.

The fact the agency has no paper trail for such a significant sum of money is emblematic of the difficulties the government would have doing a Pentagon-wide audit. “If you can’t follow the money, you aren’t going to be able to do an audit,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, senior member of the Budget and Finance committees, told Politico.

02_05_Pentagon The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, DC on August 25, 2013. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

This is not the first time the Pentagon has apparently been financially irresponsible and it provides further ammunition to those who argue the military’s budget is bloated. As Republicans pushed for a massive increase in defense spending this past fall, Senator Bernie Sanders decried the idea, urging that more money should be dedicated to areas such as health care and education. 

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” Sanders said in September 2017, quoting former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “This world in arms is not spending money alone, It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.”

The U.S. has the highest defense budget in the world by far. The next biggest spender, China, doesn’t even come close to the U.S.’s annual budget: it spends roughly $215 billion on its military per year.