While Republicans weep and moan at the “wasteful” dollars our government spends to provide for the social safety net and allow our citizens to retire with dignity, they fiercely defend the incredible amount of money that we pump into the Pentagon and our defense spending, which is the most of any nation in the world- $610 billion dollars a year. However, a new report has come to light indicating that the Pentagon has lost track of $8.5 trillion since 1996– enough to cut our national debt in half.
Since a law ordering audits of all federal agencies came into effect in 1990, the Department of Defense is the only one which hasn’t complied. Since 2005, the Pentagon has accumulated unaudited contracts with outside businesses worth $3 trillion dollars, and the Treasury has no idea how that money was actually spent. The Pentagon regularly cooks its books and outright lies in order to placate Congress, falsely reporting some $9.2 trillion dollars to reconcile budget discrepancies in its 2012 statement.
The misuse of funds and wasteful management of the Pentagon is legendary after the disastrous War in Iraq, where Dick Cheney and the other members of the neo-con coven began privatizing duties that are normally carried out by the US military, allowing arms manufacturers and mercenary contractors to make billions off a horrific, unnecessary war. It is beginning to be very clear that there is a link between Congress, defense spending, and profiteering corporations in America making billions off of taxpayer dollars- the armed forces have too much stuff, and keep buying more anyway. “We have about $14 billion of inventory for lots of reasons, and probably half of that is excess to what we need” says Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek. In 2012, a report found that the military had “$733 million worth of supplies and equipment on order that was already stocked in excess amounts on warehouse shelves. That figure was up 21% from $609 million a year earlier. The Defense Department defines “excess inventory” as anything more than a three-year supply.”
The US military has over 5,000 separate accounting and business systems, all of which are unique and contribute greatly to the difficulty in keeping track of its funds. The Pentagon is a bloated bureaucratic beast with a ravenous hunger for taxpayer dollars, and at this point it’s probably not a coincidence that efforts to modernize and streamline the Pentagon’s accounting systems have cost billions of dollars and still won’t be ready for the planned audit in 2017. There is a huge amount of money at play here, and a deeply entrenched system of corruption that funnels the money we pour into it back to shadowy corporations and contractors, who then funnel it into the campaign coffers of Republican politicians.
At the same time, Republican presidential candidates are stumping around the country, talking about how our nation “needs” to increase retirement age and cut funds from Social Security. It’s an absolute travesty that we can’t find the money to pay American workers a fair wage, invest in anything from infrastructure to education to the postal service, but we can still throw billions into the maw of the Pentagon only to find it in the pockets of our politicians and in corporate coffers.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.