National Security

Published — August 3, 2015 Updated — April 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm ET

Broken audit promises

Introduction

All U.S. federal agencies and departments are required to submit to an annual audit, under a 1994 law meant to “gain financial control of government operations.” Just as taxpayers must annually explain their income and tax payments to the IRS, the law’s sponsors said, so should government entities be required to make a credible statement of revenues, assets, liabilities, and spending.

Only one department has since failed to meet this requirement: the Defense Department, despite a flurry of promises by top officials that they would do what was needed to get their fiscal books in order. After a decade and a half, lawmakers finally wised up, and in the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act, they required the financial statements of the Defense Department to be ready for audit no later than September 30, 2017.

Pentagon officials say this is a deadline they intend to meet. But their record suggests otherwise. In 2013, for example, the U.S. Marine Corps made headlines for becoming the first military service to pass even a rudimentary financial audit. But in March 2015, even that opinion was withdrawn. Below are some of noteworthy examples of missed deadlines. See related story »

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