In a bipartisan effort to cut fat -- not muscle -- from the Department of Defense, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin joined an effort today to work with eight of his colleagues from both parties to finally audit the Pentagon. The "Audit the Pentagon Act" creates new incentives and enforcement mechanisms to force the Pentagon to conduct an audit.
"I truly believe that the United States of America has -- and must continue to have -- the greatest military force in the world. But with our Department of Defense paying contractors four times what we're paying the Secretary of Defense while considering laying off our servicemembers, it's clear that our priorities are out of balance," Senator Manchin said. "We need to make sure that we're using our limited resources in the best way possible to support the men and women in uniform. One of best ways to do that is to shed light on the Department of Defense budget, without jeopardizing our national security secrets."
"By failing to pass an audit, the Pentagon has undermined our national security," said Dr. Tom Coburn, the lead sponsor of the bill and a Republican Senator from Oklahoma. "When the Pentagon can't tell Congress, or itself, how it is spending money good programs face cuts along with wasteful programs, which is the situation in which we find ourselves today under sequestration. In short, this bill helps the Pentagon help itself. Passing an audit is a critical step that will protect vital priorities and help the Pentagon comply with current law and our Constitution."
Other original cosponsors include Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Scott Brown (R-MA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
Key provisions and findings of the "Audit the Pentagon Act":
Unlike the rest of the federal government, the Department of Defense has never fully complied with several laws on financial management.
This bill creates two important incentives for the Pentagon to meet its audit schedule:
The Pentagon will have increased authority to reprogram funds without congressional approval (notification is still required);
The Pentagon will tell Congress which reports are obsolete, which will save taxpayer dollars by reducing unneeded bureaucracy.
The bill also creates three new accountability and enforcement mechanisms:
No new major weapon system -- unless it is needed to fill an urgent national security need -- can progress past research and development until the Department of Defense can audit its books;
Creation of a Chief Management Officer empowered to fix the Pentagon's finances and IT problems;
Defense Finance and Accounting Service is transferred to Treasury -- which does payments for the rest of the federal government -- if the Pentagon does not pass an audit.