It is as if the accountability and appropriations clauses of the U.S. Constitution were just window dressing, behind which this mind-numbing malfeasance thrives.
Technically, this is a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, a statute carrying felony sanctions of fines and imprisonment.
Congress and the Pentagon annually report and hold hearings on DOD’s lack of financial accountability and sometimes enact new laws, but many of the new laws simply permit the Pentagon to ignore the previous ones; others are eyewash.
If you have a system that does not accurately know what its spending history is, and does not know what it is now (and does not care to redress the matter), how can you expect it to make a competent, honest estimate of future costs?
It is self-evident that an operation that tolerates inaccurate, unverifiable data cannot be soundly managed; it exempts itself from any reasonable standard of efficiency.
Recall, also that the errors in cost, schedule and performance that result are not random: actual costs always turn out to be much higher than, sometimes even multiples of, early estimates; the schedule is always optimistic, and the performance is always inflated.
The Pentagon, defense industry and their congressional operatives want – need – to increase the money flow into the system to pretend to improve it.
Supported by a psychology of excessive secrecy, generated fear and the ideological belief that there is no alternative to high cost, high complexity weapons, higher budgets are easier to justify, especially if no one can sort out how the Pentagon actually spends its money.
The key to the DOD spending problem is to initiate financial accountability. No failed system can be understood or fixed if it cannot be accurately measured.
And yet, there is no sense of urgency in the Pentagon to do anything about it.
Indeed, in the 1990s, we were promised the accountability problem would be solved by 1997. In the early 2000s, we were promised it would be solved by 2007; then by 2016; then by 2017….
The question must be asked: if nothing has been done by the Pentagon to end the accountability problem after more than 20 years of promises, is top management simply incompetent, or is this the intended result of obfuscation to avert accountability?
A spending system that effectively audits its weapon programs and offices would also be one that systemically uncovers incompetent and crooked managers, false promises and those who made them.
It would also necessarily reveal reasons to dramatically alter, if not cease, funding for some programs, which of course would make lots of people in industry, Congress, and the executive branch unhappy.
The current system and its out of control finances mortally harm our defenses, defraud taxpayers, and bloat the Pentagon and federal budgets.
Any reform that fails to address this most fundamental problem is merely another doomed attempt that will only serve to perpetuate a system that thrives on falsehoods and deception.