Sen. Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., left, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, right, shown here Jan. 19, have cosponsored a bill that would require the Pentagon to pass an independent audit every year. File photo by Andrew Harnik/UPI | License Photo
May 20 (UPI) -- A bipartisan team of senators have introduced a bill that would require the Defense Department to pass a full, independent audit each year beginning in the fiscal year 2022.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced the introduction of the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2021 in a joint statement earlier this week.
The bill would require that for each year military agencies fail to obtain a clean audit opinion, 1% of their budget would be returned to the Treasury.
"We've seen example after example of excessive and inefficient spending by the Pentagon, and every dollar squandered is a dollar not being used to support our men and women in uniform," Grassley said in the statement. "After 30 years to get ready, this bill pushes the Defense Department to finally achieve a clean annual audit-- a requirement that every other federal agency is held to."
"The Pentagon and the military industrial complex have been plagued by a massive amount of waste, fraud and financial mismanagement for decades. That is absolutely unacceptable," Sanders said. "If we are serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively, we have got to end the absurdity of the Pentagon being the only agency in the federal government that has not passed an independent audit."
The Department of Defense is the only federal agency that has never passed an independent audit, yet it consumes more than half the nation's discretionary budget and controls assets in excess of $3.1 trillion, the senators' statement said.
The most recent defense spending bill allocated more than $740 billion to the department.
Congress has mandated since 1990 that federal agencies comply with annual Government Accountability Office, but the Pentagon resisted the requirement for years.
In 2018 the department did open its books to outside investigators, who found that most divisions -- except for the Military Retirement Fund and most of the Army Corps of Engineers -- failed to show that they were properly keeping track of their finances.
In February 2019 26 members of the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committee urged the Pentagon to complete an internal audit, expressing concern that the audit would be delayed after its leader, Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist, was promoted to acting deputy defense secretary.
In April of this year senior Pentagon officials told the House Armed Services Committee they were making steady progress toward getting a clean audit.
Douglas A. Glenn, the DoD's chief financial officer, said he could not give a firm date on when the department would get to a clean audit, but said a reasonable guess would be around 2028.