Leaking Dollars: A Peek into the Defense Department’s Books

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How carefully is Uncle Sam spending the hard-earned cash of American citizens? National debt is approaching $17 trillion, but it looks as if not even the U.S. government is quite sure exactly what’s going on in the accounting department.

The nation hasn’t seen any surplus funds since 2001, when the national debt was a mere $5.8 trillion. After 2001, as we all know, the nation went to war – in Afghanistan and then Iraq in 2003 – sharply increasing spending rates. Five years later, in 2006, the debt was $8.5 trillion, and by 2011, it totaled $14.8 trillion. In 2013, the debt has risen to $16.9 trillion.

These alarming numbers are complicated by the fact that federal agencies don’t always release transparent fiscal statements at the end of each year. In fact, a Government Accountability Office review found in 2000 that 21 out of 24 major financial governmental departments were not in compliance with federal accounting standards. Low-rated agencies included the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Federal Aviation Administration, and even the International Revenue Service itself.

Interestingly, the Department of Defense was rated as having the worst financial issues of all departments.

Some problems with the Department of Defense accounting books included unsupported adjustments – in which, as a hypothetical example, $100 was allotted to buy a tank and $150 was spent on a tank – and black budgets, or budgets made secret due to national security claims. These problems amounted to $2.3 trillion that could not be found. Many may remember that Donald Rumsfeld brought the issue to light one day before 9/11.

Two years later, in 2003, the Department of Defense found it could not account for $1 trillion in spending. In addition, it lost 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch units, which seemed to have disappeared into thin air.

In 2004, during efforts to rebuild Iraq, the government loaded $20 billion in cash onto a plane, shrink-wrapped and placed on pallets, to fly overseas. It seems that $6.6 billion of that money went missing – at least according to U.S. officials. Iraqi officials claim $18.7 billion mysteriously disappeared.

Missing Money
Image source: www.masters-in-accounting.org

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