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US: Pentagon's War Spending Hard to Track Says Chief Investigator

The Defense Department is unable to track how it spent tens of millions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the U.S. war on terrorism, Congress's top investigator said. While there was no doubt that appropriated funds were spent, "trying to figure out what they were spent on is like pulling teeth," he said, referring to an accounting effort that is under way for Congress.

Reuters
April 13th, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department is unable to track how it spent tens of millions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the U.S. war on terrorism, Congress's top investigator said on Wednesday.

The department "doesn't have a system to be able to determine with any degree of reliability and specificity how we spent" tens of millions in war-related emergency funds set aside by Congress, Comptroller General David Walker told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee.

Walker heads the Government Accountability Office, Congress's nonpartisan audit and investigative arm. He disclosed the accounting gap as part of a broader indictment of Pentagon business practices.

Congress approved $25 billion in extra defense spending for fiscal 2005, which ends on Sept. 30. Lawmakers were moving to approve $81 billion more this week outside the normal budget process, including about $75 billion for war-related Defense Department operations.

While there was no doubt that appropriated funds were spent, "trying to figure out what they were spent on is like pulling teeth," Walker said, referring to an accounting effort he said was under way for Congress.

The Defense Department had no immediate comment.

Overall, Walker said the Defense Department, which is seeking $419.3 billion for its fiscal 2006 budget, was wasting billions of dollars a year because of ineffective management of its business operations.

Although Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides have shown a commitment to business management transformation, "little tangible evidence of actual improvement has been seen in DoD's business operations to date," he testified.

Walker argued that the Defense Department needed to appoint a chief manager, who would in effect become the third-ranking official at the Pentagon after the defense secretary and the deputy defense secretary.

Such a position should be filled by presidential appointment and confirmed by the Senate for a set term of seven years, he said.

But the current Pentagon official with responsibility for acquisition, technology and logistics, Michael Wynne, dismissed the idea as he said it would add "layers and players to an already burdened organization."

"That is the last thing we need," Wynne, an under secretary of defense, told the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management. "Another layer of management would only foster more delays than ever with new relationships and priorities, potentially hurting our product delivery to the warfighter.

"We are bringing the department well forward in financial transparency, using standards and delegated accountability," he said.





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