Exclusive: The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed | The Nation
Now, a Nation investigation has uncovered an explanation for the Pentagon’s foot-dragging: For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DoD the following year, according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts.
“If the DOD were being honest, they would go to Congress and say, ‘All these proposed budgets we’ve been presenting to you are a bunch of garbage,’ ” said Jack Armstrong, who spent more than five years in the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General as a supervisory director of audits before retiring in 2011.
The fraud works like this. When the DoD submits its annual budget requests to Congress, it sends along the prior year’s financial reports, which contain fabricated numbers. The fabricated numbers disguise the fact that the DoD does not always spend all of the money Congress allocates in a given year. However, instead of returning such unspent funds to the US Treasury, as the law requires, the Pentagon sometimes launders and shifts such moneys to other parts of the DoD’s budget.
To make sure that fiscal year 2015 was not an anomaly, Skidmore and his graduate students expanded their inquiry, examining OIG reports on Pentagon financial records stretching back to 1998. Time and again, they found that the amounts of money reported as having flowed into and out of the Defense Department were gargantuan, often dwarfing the amounts Congress had appropriated: $1.7 trillion in 1998, $2.3 trillion in 1999, $1.1 trillion in 2000, $1.1 trillion in 2007, $875 billion in 2010, and $1.7 trillion in 2012, plus amounts in the hundreds of billions in other years.
In all, at least a mind-boggling $21 trillion of Pentagon financial transactions between 1998 and 2015 could not be traced, documented, or explained, concluded Skidmore.