U.S. Kills People Remotely and Turns Countries Into Craters, but Can’t Take Care of Its Finances, Senator Says

The Department of Defense can “turn entire countries into craters” and has advanced cybersecurity capabilities, but hasn’t successfully completed an audit of its finances, Republican Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, pointed out during a hearing this week.

“We all watch us kill people remotely in Mosul and other places, people far away, commanding drones…. How in the world could it be that the biggest, greatest fighting entity in the world cannot audit itself until 2018? What’s wrong?” Corker asked during the Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Congress first passed a law in 1990 making it mandatory for the Pentagon to complete an annual audit. But 2018 is the first year that a comprehensive, agency-wide audit is taking place. Department of Defense officials suggested this is because the Pentagon is more focused on the country’s security than its accounting. But Corker appeared to think that rationale was insufficient.  

“The fact is that we have probably wasted hundreds of billions of dollars through the years through poor management. Is that correct? That would be a low estimate, would it not?” he continued.

912288820 Senator Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee, questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as he delivers the annual financial stability report to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., on January 30. Pete Marovich/Getty Images

More than 1,000 auditors will be employed for this year’s audit of one of the government’s most well-funded departments. The project overall is likely to cost over $900 million. Trump administration officials like Defense Secretary James Mattis and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan have made the audit a priority, officials said.

Ultimately, Senator Corker said he is satisfied that this year’s audit will take place, but he worries that the Department of Defense may have lost money previously.

“I’m happy that in 2018 we’re finally going to have an audit. That’s good for taxpayers,” Corker said. “I am distressed that for all these years we know there’s been massive amounts of wasted money because you can’t even audit, and I’m glad that you’re on a path to do something good about it.”

In September, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill, exceeding the amount the White House had requested. The bill, pushed through by Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, included provisions for Eastern European countries fighting Russian aggression. It authorizes $500 million for security assistance to Ukraine, including weapons, $100 million for Baltic nations to “deter Russian aggression” and $705 million for Israel’s cooperative missile defense programs.