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Encyclopedia > Government Accountability Office investigations of the Department of Defense

Government Accountability Office investigations of the Department of Defense are typically audits in which the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the United States Congress’ investigative arm, studies how the Department of Defense spends taxpayer dollars. Since the GAO is accountable only to the legislative branch, it is in a unique position to investigate the military; no other agency can audit Federal departments with the same degree of independence from the President. However, the GAO is still subject to influence from powerful members of Congress. Audit can refer to: Telecommunication audit Financial audit Performance audit Completion of a course of study for which no assessment is completed or grade awarded; especially audit is awarded to those who have elected not to receive a letter grade for a course in which letter grades typically awarded. ... The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the audit, evaluation, and investigative agency of the United States Congress. ... The Congress of the United States is the legislative branch of the federal government of the United States of America. ... The United States Department of Defense, abbreviated as DoD or DOD and sometimes called the Defense Department, is a civilian Cabinet organization of the United States government. ...


Two examples of major GAO investigations in the 2000s were the audits of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Defense Department airline reimbursements. This article is about the decade starting at the beginning of 2000 and ending at the end of 2009. ... For other uses of the term, see Iraq war (disambiguation) The 2003 invasion of Iraq (also called the 2nd or 3rd Persian Gulf War) began on March 20, 2003, when forces belonging primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq without the explicit backing of the United...

Contents

Major investigations

Operation Iraqi Freedom

GAO investigations into Operation Iraqi Freedom revealed a number of accounting problems, ranging from the mundane to the severe. Pay irregularities were a chronic problem. According to a GAO report cited in Computerworld, 450 of the 481 Army National Guard soldiers from six Special Forces units had at least one pay problem associated with their mobilization. The report found, "DOD’s inability to provide timely and accurate payments to these soldiers, many of whom risked their lives in recent Iraq or Afghanistan missions, distracted them from their missions, imposed financial hardships on the soldiers and their families and has had a negative impact on retention" [1] (http://www.computerworld.com/managementtopics/management/itspending/story/0,10801,94392p2,00.html). The United States National Guard is a significant component of the United States armed forces military reserve. ... Special forces or special operations forces is a term used to describe relatively small military units raised and trained for reconnaissance, unconventional warfare and special operations. ... The Republic of Iraq is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern Asia encompassing the ancient region of Mesopotamia at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. ... Afghanistan (Pashtu/Dari-Persian: Afğānistān افغانستان) is a country in Central Asia. ...


The investigation also uncovered questionable procurement arrangements with Halliburton. According to a United Press International article published in The Washington Times, the Kuwaiti-owned Timimmi Company had been serving hot meals to troops stationed in Iraq for $3 a meal. The contract was later reassigned to Halliburton, which raised the price to $5 a meal, subcontracted the meal services back out to Timimmi, and kept the 40% difference. GAO Analyst Neil Curtain exposed the problem in a Congressional hearing, noting, "Certainly that’s unfair to the taxpayer" [2] (http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040615-082100-3407r.htm). The acquisition of goods or services at the best possible total cost of ownership, in the right quantity, at the right time, in the right place for the direct benefit or use of the governments, corporations, or individuals generally via, but not limited to a contract. ... For information on the early 20th century explorer of the same name, see Richard Halliburton Halliburton Energy Services (NYSE: HAL) is a multinational corporation based in Houston, Texas, in the United States and the worlds second-largest oilfield services company behind Schlumberger Limited. ... United Press International (UPI) is a global news agency headquartered in the United States filing news in English, Spanish and Arabic. ... The Washington Times is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.. It was founded in 1982 as a conservative alternative to the Washington Post by members of the controversial Unification Church. ... The State of Kuwait is a small oil-rich monarchy on the coast of the Persian Gulf, enclosed by Saudi Arabia in the south and Iraq in the north. ... A fairly broad term for a person or tool with a primary function of information analysis, generally with a more limited, practical and short term set of goals than a researcher. ...


As the investigation into Iraqi Freedom progressed, it began turning up worse and worse procurement problems. GAO auditors caught the Department selling new chemical and biological protective garments on the Internet for $3 each. At the same time, the Pentagon was buying identical garments elsewhere for more than $200 apiece. Other accounting snafus resulted in the Army losing track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units [3] (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/05/18/MN251738.DTL). Audit can refer to: Telecommunication audit Financial audit Performance audit Completion of a course of study for which no assessment is completed or grade awarded; especially audit is awarded to those who have elected not to receive a letter grade for a course in which letter grades typically awarded. ... The Pentagon, looking east with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in the distance. ... The Army is the branch of the United States armed forces which has primary responsibility for land-based military operations. ... Fixed-wing aircraft is a term used to refer to what are more commonly known as aeroplanes in Commonwealth English (excluding Canada) or airplanes in North American English. ... The US M1A1 Abrams tank is a typical modern main battle tank. ... A soldier practices with the Javelin on a firing range. ...


The GAO found that the waste encountered in Iraq is symptomatic of a wider inventory-control problem. More than 200 inventory-control systems at the Defense Department still are not integrated. The GAO notes, "Poor communication between services within the Department of Defense and improper accounting results in the disposal of needed spare parts and the purchase of duplicative parts worth millions of dollars"[4]  (http://www.house.gov/defazio/102699DERelease.htm).


Airline reimbursements

A more recent GAO investigation revealed $100 million in wasted airline fees. The Associated Press notes that the Defense Department spent an estimated $100 million for airline tickets that were not used over six years and failed to seek refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable. The Department also reimbursed employees for airline tickets that had been purchased by the Department. To demonstrate how easy it was to have the Pentagon pay for airline travel, the investigators posed as Defense employees, had the department generate a ticket and showed up at the ticket counter to pick up a boarding pass [5] (http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2004-06-09-pentagon-flights_x.htm). Associated Press logo The Associated Press, or AP, is an American news agency that claims to be the worlds oldest and largest. ...


The GAO also uncovered several incidences of airline-related fraud. One DOD traveler used a Department account number to pay for more than 70 airline tickets totaling more than $60,000. He then sold them at a discount to coworkers and family members for personal travel. Another employee admitted to "accidentally" claiming reimbursement for $10,000 worth of airline tickets that had been paid for by the Department.


GAO influence over Defense Department reform

Defense Department responses to investigations

There is evidence that GAO investigations are encouraging the Department to reform. The Halliburton contract was re-negotiated and assigned directly to Timimmi. And Dov Zakheim, chief financial officer for the Pentagon, said, "We are overhauling our financial management system precisely because people like [GAO Comptroller General] David Walker are rightly critical of it" [6] (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/05/18/MN251738.DTL). ...


These audits appear to have been more effective at prompting reform than the Defense Department’s own initiatives. In 1989, the Department began attempting to unify more than 2,000 overlapping systems used for billing, inventory, and personnel. But after spending $20 billion, the initiative was abandoned. Gregory Kutz, director of GAO’s financial management division, noted the Pentagon’s weak fiscal control over its subsidiaries – the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines – saying, "The Pentagon’s inability to even complete an audit shows just how far they have to go"[7]  (http://nuclearfree.lynx.co.nz/trillionbuck.htm). 1989 is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Army is the branch of the United States armed forces which has primary responsibility for land-based military operations. ... The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for naval operations. ... Seal of the Air Force. ... United States Marine Corps Emblem The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is the second smallest of the five branches of the United States armed forces, with 170,000 active and 40,000 reserve Marines as of 2002. ...


Threats to GAO independence

Scholars believe, however, that the GAO’s authority could be undermined in the wake of a landmark case, Walker vs. Cheney. This Federal lawsuit pertained to a GAO investigation into the Bush Administration’s Energy Task Force. Vice President Richard Cheney refused to disclose which individuals and groups met with the Task Force, prompting Walker to sue for the information in Federal court. In December 2002, the court ruled for Cheney. Dick Cheney 46th and current Vice President (2001- ) The Vice President of the United States is the second-highest executive official of the United States government, the person who is a heartbeat from the presidency. ... Richard Bruce Cheney (born January 30, 1941), widely known as Dick Cheney, is an American politician and businessman affiliated with the U.S. Republican Party. ... 2002 is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Congressional pressure persuaded Walker to abandon appeals. Having vowed to "go to the mat," he originally planned to pursue the case further. But according to OMBWatch, "Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, met with GAO Comptroller General David Walker earlier in the year, and sources have reported that sharp cuts in the GAO $440 million budget were threatened if the lawsuit was pursued further"[8]  (http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/1360/1/108/). Theodore Fulton Ted Stevens (born November 18, 1923) is an American politician from Alaska. ...


The GAO was designed to be independent, and Walker cites several factors insulating his agency from political pressure. In a Roll Call op-ed, he remarks, "To begin with, our location in the legislative branch gives us some distance from the executive branches we audit and oversee. Moreover, the head of GAO serves a 15-year term, which gives the agency a continuity of leadership that is rare in the federal government. . . . GAO’s independence is further safeguarded by the fact that its workforce consists of career civil servants hired on the basis of their knowledge, skill, and ability"[9] (http://www.gao.gov/about/rollcall07192004.pdf).


However, the GAO, like all federal agencies, is subject to Congress’ budgetary power. According to The Hill, "Walker did say . . . that several lawmakers have threatened in the past year to cut agency funding if it persisted with the controversial lawsuit. He also said the budget threat was among a number of factors that tipped his Feb. 7 decision to halt litigation"[10]  (http://www.hillnews.com/news/021903/cheney.aspx).


It is difficult to tell whether curtailed GAO independence will threaten Defense Department reform. Some aspects of Defense Department accounting have resisted reform for decades. Danielle Brian, director of the nonprofit Project on Governmental Oversight, says, "Waste has become ingrained in the Defense budget because opposition to defense spending is portrayed as unpatriotic, and legislators are often more concerned about winning Pentagon pork than controlling defense waste" [11] (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/05/18/MN251738.DTL). Pork barrel (or pork barrel politics) is a derogatory term used to describe United States government spending that is intended to enrich constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. ...


But even Representatives who generally support Defense spending seem to be getting fed up with the problem. Last month, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, asked the Pentagon to present 11 documents relating to contracts in Iraq, among them papers that would prove whether Halliburton benefited from its association with Cheney. And Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., of the House Committee on Government Reform recently said, "I’ve always considered myself to be a pro-military type person, but that doesn’t mean I just want to sit back and watch the Pentagon waste billions and billions of dollars" [12] (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/05/18/MN251738.DTL). Thomas M. Davis III (born January 5, 1949), American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1994, representing the Eleventh Congressional District of Virginia from 1995. ... For the Canadian politician, see John Duncan (Canadian politician). ...


Supporters of the GAO investigations like to point out the disparity between the GAO budget and military expenses. The GAO’s Fiscal Year 2004 annual budget was $463.6 million[13] (http://www.gao.gov/about/gglance.html). In contrast, GAO reports show that the Defense Department’s 2,200 overlapping financial systems cost $18 billion a year to operate[14]  (http://nuclearfree.lynx.co.nz/trillionbuck.htm). A fiscal year or financial year is a 12-month period used for calculating annual (yearly) financial reports in businesses and other organizations. ... 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


References


  Results from FactBites:
 
United States Department of Defense - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (890 words)
The United States Department of Defense, abbreviated as DoD or DOD and usually called the Defense Department, is a civilian Cabinet organization of the United States government.
The Establishment had the unfortunate abbreviation 'NME' (the obvious pronunciation being "enemy"), and was renamed the "Department of Defense" (abbreviated as DOD or DoD) on August 10, 1949; in addition, the Secretary of Defense was given greater authority over the three military departments (Army, Navy, and Air Force).
Under the act, the chain of command runs from the President of the United States, through the Secretary of Defense, to the regional commanders within one of several commands who command all military forces within their area of operation.
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