US Army’s Accounting Off By Trillions of Dollars

army paperwork

The US Army’s accounting department messed up big-time last year. How big? To the tune of $6.5 trillion. Oopsie.

According to a Pentagon audit performed by the Inspector General’s office of the Defense Department, the Army could not provide basic accounting information such as receipts and invoices for enough spending that trillions of dollars of accounting adjustments had to be made.

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For reference, that total error number is about 30 times the Army’s total budget.

Like most government programs, the US military is a champion of waste

These accounting snags should come as no surprise to someone familiar with the US military’s workings over the past several decades. Defense spending boomed during the Cold War to counter the perpetual Soviet threat of annihilation, and yet continued to grow after the USSR fell and the US was left without major nemeses.

And where’s all that defense spending going? To ridiculous things, of course. Recent prominent examples include a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan, which of course isn’t even functional, and $500 million spent on recruiting and training rebels in Syria, which yielded an impressive crop of about 5 fighters, or about $100 million per man.

Trying to cut wasteful military spending is political suicide

Despite these spectacular examples of waste, the US military spending machine is surprisingly hard to reduce. Congress can’t get a budget through without including even more increases to defense spending. Even Mr. “Say-What-He-Thinks” Trump has backed off claims made earlier in the election cycle that he would reign in military spending.

And although the Pentagon continues to spend as a drunken sailor, the rest of the world, even in the most militaristic countries, just isn’t keeping up. US military spending accounted for 37% of 2015’s $1.6 trillion total. This means that if the US didn’t have a military, it would have enough spending left to buy more than half of the remaining $1 trillion military of the combined rest of the world.