Since the early 1990s, all federal agencies have been required to undergo regular, independent financial audits. The Pentagon is the only government agency to have never passed one, most recently failing for the fifth consecutive time in November 2022, when it accounted for just 39 percent of its $3.5 trillion in assets.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)— introduced a bill aiming to change that. The Audit the Pentagon Act would require any office of the Department of Defense that does not pass a clean audit to forfeit part of its budget. If passed, the legislation would administer a 0.5 percent cut to the budget in the first year without a successful audit, then increase to 1 percent in subsequent years.
In the 2022 audit, only seven of the 27 investigated areas earned a clean bill of financial health.
"It's really not acceptable for just a collective shrug of the shoulders and say, ‘Well, we just couldn’t do it'," Burgess told Fox Business. "This is important. Other work they [the DoD] do is important. In no way does this diminish the importance of what is perhaps our most profound requirement of the Constitution, and that is to provide for the defense of our nation, but you also need to do so responsibly. And the Pentagon does need to be able to account for the money it's getting and how it's being spent."
Despite its repeated inability to pass an audit, the Pentagon budget has continued to grow substantially. The DOD’s request for Fiscal Year 2024 came in at $842 billion. As Quincy Institute research fellow William Hartung noted when the request was released in March, Congress will likely add a substantial amount to the Pentagon’s request. “That’s no way to craft a budget — or defend a country,” Hartung wrote. “When it comes to defense, Congress should engage in careful oversight, not special interest politics.”
Lee and Pocan have led on a number of issues related to Pentagon budgets. Earlier this year, they reintroduced the People over Pentagon Act, which would have cut the budget by $100 billion, representing the largest single-year DoD budget cut.
“We cannot justify continuing to increase the Pentagon budget when the agency cannot even successfully pass an audit,” said Pocan in a press release. “This bill will provide a powerful incentive to Pentagon leaders to get their fiscal house in order. DoD has a history of little accountability while pouring billions into weapons systems that just don’t work properly. It's past time to rein in spending on ineffective programs and restore fiscal discipline to the Pentagon.”