WASHINGTON—Senate lawmakers revealed that the Pentagon is spending almost $1 billion on an internal audit, in hopes of saving an additional $46 billion in unnecessary spending over the next five years. A whopping 12,000 auditors have been deployed by the Pentagon for the sole purpose of identifying places in the U.S. military where spending could be cut without hurting its warfighting capabilities.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis had promised the Senate during his confirmation hearing in January 2017 that there would be an extensive audit of the department. That audit is happening right now, according to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“This is the first time we have done an audit of this scale at the [department],” said Ernst, at a March 15 forum hosted by the news website Defense One, citing information given to the Senate from Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist. “We have 24 standalone audits that will be done within the department; 12,000 auditors are deployed right now at the Pentagon at the various sites going through this audit.”
Ernst said that the audit, which will probably cost $900 million, aims to make the Pentagon more efficient in the long run, therefore saving far more money than it costs. The White House anticipates saving $46 billion over the next five years, while the Defense Department estimates savings of around $6 billion a year for the next 10 years, according to Ernst.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), another ranking member of the Armed Services Committee who spoke at the forum, said that the American people are “tired of throwing money at the government—not just the Department of Defense, but everything in government.”
“In the private industry, if you are over the budget again and again, you’re not going to be with that company anymore,” Peters said. “We have to instill that culture in the folks who manage the Department of Defense as well, because you have a certain set amount of money and a certain set of goals, and you’d better achieve them.”
Meanwhile, U.S. military leaders, particularly in the Navy, have continued to press for more money from Congress.
In 2017, two separate incidents led Aegis destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain to collide with commercial vessels, causing the deaths of a combined 17 U.S. sailors. An investigation by the Navy blamed the root cause of the incident on flawed practices exacerbated by substandard levels of training and knowledge—a deficiency that many say could have been caused by budget instability due to Congress’s inability to provide needed funds in full each year, along with the cuts imposed by the budgetary sequester.
At the forum, the senators stressed that the unprecedented Pentagon audit is meant to help the military use taxpayers’ money more effectively and intelligently, without sacrificing its warfighting capabilities.
“We don’t want to hurt the warfighters, but the threat of decreasing budget for the Department of Defense could be very detrimental for them,” Ernst said. “We are moving at the right direction, and we have to do it.”