errors and omissions are so common that the
Pentagon has had to hire outsiders to fix
them, at a cost of $34 million in 2002, the
most recent figure available.
Pentagon's budget mess, U.S. officials acknowledge,
stems in part from the hundreds of competing
agencies, services and bureaucratic fiefdoms.
far, the Pentagon has discovered that it is
operating with more than 4,000 separate accounting
systems. Many are incompatible, meaning some
purchase orders cannot be tracked.
a result, none of the military services can
pass an independent financial audit, David
Walker, comptroller general of the United
States, told Congress earlier this year. The
Pentagon's accounting systems are "fundamentally
flawed," the GAO said.
agency said a key problem is "a lack of sustained
leadership." Top officials change every three
or four years. Another problem is "cultural
resistance to change" inside defense bureaucracies,
the GAO said. Thus, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld's $200-million, 3-year reform initiative
has had no significant impact, it found.
are being addressed," Linda Springer, of the
White House budget office, said during a July
8 congressional hearing. "Progress is being
made, but it is important to recognize that
long-standing issues are not easily remediated."
Lanzillotta, undersecretary of defense for
management reform, told the committee that
"we are making progress" but that it "will
take years" to fix the problems.
outflow of unaccounted cash is "not a trickle
of coins -- it's a deluge of dollars," said
Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. "This money
should be equipping our troops in the war
on terror, or securing our homeland from attacks,
instead of disappearing into the abyss of
government balance statements."
is just finishing work on next year's budget
for the Pentagon. But nothing in the legislation
appropriating $418 billion for the 2005 fiscal
year, which begins Oct. 1, demands more strict
accounting or requires that accurate reports
be submitted before the Pentagon gets the
DAVID WOOD at David.Wood@newhouse.com.
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