Pentagon IG: Watchdog Agency Outgunned by Rising Tide of Defense Spending
The skyrocketing defense budget of the last several years has overwhelmed the Pentagon's premier watchdog agency, according to a report to Congress made public for the first time by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
The enormous increase in the defense budget "from less than $300 billion to more than $600 billion," due to the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has "strained" the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG). Meanwhile, DoD OIG staffing has remained "nearly constant" (page 5).
The effect has been "gaps in coverage in important areas, such as major weapon systems acquisition, health care fraud, product substitution, and Defense intelligence agencies." Furthermore, "As the delta between the resources of the Department and the DoD IG grows, it will continue to stretch our resources and affect our ability to be an effective oversight function and control for the Department of Defense, and could ultimately impact our ability to provide adequate coverage of services related to the GWOT" (page 5).
"The Pentagon's top cop is outgunned and it's high noon," stated Nick Schwellenbach, POGO's national security investigator. "It's stunning that we've been spending so much for so long with so little oversight."
Among the disturbing points made by the DoD OIG in a March 2008 report to Congress are the following:
- In fiscal year 2007, nearly half – $152 billion – of the taxpayer dollars spent on weapons acquisition did not receive sufficient audit coverage (only $164 billion out of $316 billion did; page 11);
- The contract dollar amounts overseen by each DoD OIG contract auditor have tripled. "In FY 97, there was 1 DoD IG auditor for each $642 million in DoD contracts. By 2007, the ratio had declined to 1 DoD IG auditor for each $2.03 billion in DoD contracts" (page 14);
- "Oversight of DoD contracts needs to be strengthened. The number of DoD IG auditors conducting contract audits has not kept pace with the value of DoD contracts" (page 14);
- "The continual degradation of audit resources that is occurring at a time when the DoD budget is growing larger leaves the Department more vulnerable to fraud, waste, and, abuse and undermines the Department's mission" (page 11);
- There are not enough criminal investigators to ensure that criminal activity is detected and sufficiently investigated, leaving the Pentagon at risk of "significant financial loss" and "more vulnerable to terrorist activities" (page 17);
- Despite a tremendous rise over the last ten years in the number of military whistleblower reprisal complaints (62% from 315 to 528 a year), the number of DoD OIG staffers investigators who look into those complaints has dropped (from 22 to 19) (page 18);
- Defense Department intelligence agencies, where most intelligence money across the federal government is spent, "are key areas where oversight has been reduced" (page 27-28).
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.