I previously wrote a column about how government officials waste billions or plow whole programs in the ground without nary a reprimand. If that column bothered you, you might want to sit down. A new report has detailed how the military has cooked the books to hide trillions, that’s right trillions, in missing money and equipment. The military calls them “plugs,” a curious term for fraud. These are knowingly fake figures used to hide the fact that there is no accurate record of the money. In one finding, a single office in Columbus, Ohio, made at least $1.59 trillion in errors with $538 billion in plugs. The study reveals that government accounting records are fraudulent but that congressional oversight has been equally illusory.
The plugs are generally the work of the office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Required to complete an audit, the staff simply faked the numbers. When taxpayers and citizens do that, they go to jail. Yet, government officials can knowingly falsify reports and figures for billions without fear of discipline or even reprimand. To the contrary, the plugs were approved by their supervisors.
The Army actually lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011 — leaving some units without essential equipment.
Of course, we continue to spend massive amount of our budget on new equipment and military programs — backed up by a massive lobby and industry that thrives on the defense budget. Lost equipment will just have to be replaced and more contracts awarded.
Members are considering legislation to require the government to have audits that are truthful. It is not clear what the requirement was before.