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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this bill, the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013, sharpens the teeth of the appropriations and accountability clause in the Constitution, article I, section 9, clause 7, which says:

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

The intent of this clause is simple: Congress cannot possibly know that the executive branch is obeying the first part of the appropriations clause--spending--of the Constitution without confidence in the second--accountability. The decades-long failure by the Pentagon to comply with existing Federal financial management laws is against the very spirit of the Constitution--our Founding Fathers demanded that those spending taxpayer dollars are accountable to taxpayers.

The Pentagon's financial management problems are intimately related to the problems of waste at the Pentagon and the budget crisis that has created sequestration. Currently, neither Pentagon leaders, nor Congressional members can consistently and reliably identify what our defense programs cost, will cost in the future, or even what they really cost in the past. When the Pentagon doesn't know itself and can't tell Congress 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. Unreliable financial management information makes it impossible to link the consequences of past decisions to the defense budget or to measure whether the activities of the Defense Department are meeting the military requirements set for it. Passing a financial audit is a critical step that will protect vital priorities and help the Pentagon comply with current law and our Constitution.

The problem is clear: if the Pentagon doesn't know how it spends its money, Congress doesn't really know how DOD is spending its money. This incomprehensible condition has been documented in hundreds of reports over three decades from both the Government Accountability Office, GAO, and the Department's own inspector general (DOD IG).

Our current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel knows that this is a problem. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee he said that the Pentagon needs ``auditable statements, both to improve the quality of our financial information and to reassure the public, and the Congress, that we are good stewards of public funds.'' Secretary Hagel agrees that the Pentagon must audit the Pentagon and says, ``Our next goal is audit-ready budget statements by the end of 2014 ..... I strongly support this initiative and will do everything I can to fulfill this commitment.''

For far too long, Congress has abdicated its constitutional role and its duty to the taxpayers by choosing not to hold DOD accountable for the deadlines it sets for itself, and the result has been continued missed deadlines and wasteful, non-value added spending. Past efforts to make the Pentagon comply with the law by passing additional laws with no teeth has not worked--the Pentagon simply ignores the laws because it suffers no consequences. The result is that unlike every other major Federal department, the Pentagon continues to fail at their requirement and responsibility to report to Congress and the American people that it can show where the hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money goes. I hope my fellow Senators will join me in supporting this bill for auditable financial statements.

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