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Many of our Ricochetti are active in, or retired from, the military and I thank them with deep gratitude for their service. But this year, reports regarding our military’s abilities to manage effectively, operate efficiently, and take security seriously have shaken my faith in it. The latest report of the Department of Defense’s Inspector General included a mind-boggling finding: The US Army has so poorly managed its finances that it has had to make trillions of dollars in adjustments to “create an illusion that its books are balanced.” That’s right: trillions. From Reuters:
The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”
The spokesman downplayed the significance of the improper changes, which he said net out to $62.4 billion. “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” he said.
Since the Army issues a budget report and a financial report, a former Defense Inspector General said he believes that “fudged numbers were inserted” into the financial report to make them match the budget report. He also suggests that the problems in reporting go back to at least 2010.
The report goes on to say that the Defense Finance and Accounting Services is studying the report “and has no comment at this time.”
In addition to this significant internal mismanagement, we’ve seen the military acquiesce to political pressure regarding intelligence gathering:
The August 10 report of a joint task force of the House Armed Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence shows that a serious corruption of intelligence by U.S. Central Command (“CENTCOM”) senior officers has been used to feed President Obama’s narrative that the fight against the Islamic State has been going well since 2014.
Based on its own investigation, the Joint Task Force has substantiated that structural and management changes made at the CENTCOM Intelligence Directorate starting in mid-2014 resulted in the production and dissemination of intelligence products that were inconsistent with the judgments of many senior, career analysts at CENTCOM. These products were consistently more optimistic regarding the conduct of U.S. military action than that of the senior analysts. Based on specific case studies evaluated by the Joint Task Force, during the time period evaluated by the Joint Task Force, CENTCOM produced intelligence that was also significantly more optimistic than that of other parts of the Intelligence Community (IC) and typically more optimistic than actual events warranted. Additionally, many CENTCOM press releases, public statements, and congressional testimonies were also significantly more positive than actual events.
The report also says that, despite receiving the survey results in December 2015 as well as whistleblower complaints, “neither CENTCOM, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) took any demonstrable steps to improve the analytic climate within CENTCOM.”
So we have serious management issues at the Pentagon — specifically within the Army, which has falsified financial information — and we have a compromised DoD that is willing to submit to political pressure from the administration to falsify intelligence information.
And yet, both presidential candidates are asking for increased military spending.
Should we worry about the ability of our military to keep this country secure? What are the implications of these kinds of issues? Should we worry about our military personnel on the ground, who risk their lives for this country?