Long time financial management reporter Scot Paltrow and his colleague Kelly Carr have written a series, now beginning to appear at Reuters, on the incredible, continuing story of the Pentagon’s gross incompetence in managing its own books. The first two pieces of the series follows. The first article is long, but I urge you to read every word. If you think financial management is a green eyeshade-only subject or if you think the Pentagon is making a meaningful, or even good faith, effort at fixing the problem, read on. The anecdotes and the callous DOD incompetence are truly magnetic.
In the story, the Pentagon’s CFO (Comptroller Robert Hale) is quoted saying, “We’re not out to screw our own people. The military pay system is just very complex.” He should have added: “But we do sit around and let it happen. We think we have more important things to do”
Indeed, it has been happening since the early 1990s when Congress passed legislation to require DOD to fix all this–legislation that DOD purposefully circumvents.
Today, DOD asserts it has a plan to fix all this: in 2014 it will produce an “audit ready” statement of budgetary resources and by 2017 (close to three decades after the original legislative direction) it will produce an audit of assets. However, it has already been made pretty clear DOD will blow, yet again, the first deadline, and in fact neither of those all too modest goals would fix the horrendous problems that Paltrow and Carr describe below.
After decades of banal rhetoric from Capitol Hill and cynical excuses from DOD, what could possibly fix this? Perhaps these people need some incentives. I would recommend putting all of Capitol Hill and the White House on the DFAS payroll system that this fascinating Reuters series describes below.
Unaccountable: The high cost of the Pentagon’s bad bookkeeping