According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, in fiscal years 2013 – 2018, the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) received 95,613 whistleblower complaints. As trillions of tax dollars in military spending have gone unaccounted for, the DOD IG has been receiving an average of 15,936 complaints per year.
The overwhelming majority of those complaints are not investigated, and there is presently a record number of whistleblowers who have been retaliated against and silenced.
In the first three sections of this report, we will take an in-depth look into critical systemic breakdowns throughout the whistleblowing process. In the last section, we will update you on the latest Pentagon audit findings and highlight their long track record of unaccountability concerning taxpayer money and assets.
In summation, as you will read throughout this report, the evidence is clear; the Pentagon systemically silences and retaliates against thousands of whistleblowers, while losing billions in weapons and trillions in tax dollars.
Corruption throughout military spending has significantly weakened combat readiness, while diverting trillions of tax dollars away from infrastructure and burying our nation in record-breaking debt. As a top National Security priority, Congress must fulfill their Constitutional duty to begin wide-scale investigations into the epidemic of systemic corruption throughout the Pentagon.
Editor’s Note: This report is part of an investigative series on the trillions of dollars in unaccounted for military spending. You can download this report and the three previous reports — over 200-pages of evidence — in PDF format for an amount of your choosing. This work is 100% reader-funded. Your support is vital. Download Reports Here.
Inspector Generals Overwhelmed By Whistleblower Complaints: “Department of Defense Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline, Please Hold”
The Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) has a dedicated hotline for whistleblowers to “report violations of laws, rules, or regulations; mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; and serious security incidents.”
As shocking as that is, the hotline is one of several ways in which whistleblowers contact the DOD IG. Overall, they get an average of 15,936 complaints per year. In fiscal years 2013 – 2018, the DOD IG received 95,613 complaints.
The overwhelming majority of these complaints are not investigated.
“A number of my colleagues and superiors told me that attempting to contact DOD IG as a whistleblower was futile, and they have been proven totally correct.
It is clear that DOD IG is either one of the most incompetent investigative agencies in the history of that profession, or is deliberately being obtuse.”
~ Kirk McGill, Senior Auditor at the Defense Contract Audit Agency, whistleblower on a $433 million contract.
As the new GAO report stated, “In fiscal year 2018, [out of 12,470 complaints] the DOD Hotline referred 3,872 cases to other entities for inquiry, and it performed oversight of 945 completion reports from DOD components.”
The 3,872 case referrals to “other entities for inquiry” may sound like progress for those whistleblowers, but most of those referrals remain unresolved. For example, the Office of Special Council (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) have been overwhelmed by a record number of whistleblower referrals and complaints, with a record-long case backlog where complaints sit for years without being resolved.
“The backlog of whistleblower and prohibited personnel practices cases at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel nearly doubled… A sustained backlog puts OSC’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting federal employees at risk. As OSC noted in its fiscal year 2017 Performance and Accountability Report, a longer backlog risks further delay for processing newly received cases.
Further, lengthy processing times delays attaining desired favorable actions and remedying wrongdoings. Without timely resolutions, whistleblowers may be discouraged from filing whistleblower disclosures.”
As critical as the problem at the OSC is, another vital whistleblower agency, the MSPB, currently has a record-long eight-year case backlog and has been effectively shutdown, as Government Executive reports:
“MSPB Likely to Remain Powerless….
MSPB lost its quorum in January 2017 – and with it, its ability to render decisions — resulting in the largest ever backlog of cases before the board.
Mark Robbins has been the lone remaining board member. He has been able to perform administrative and executive functions, but not act on any petitions for reviews of decisions made by regional administrative judges. Those judges have continued to issue rulings, more than 1,500 of which employees or agencies have appealed to the central board where they now sit in limbo.
Robbins has continued to weigh in on the appeals, but nothing can happen to them until a new member is confirmed….
Jim Eisenmann, who joined MSPB as its general counsel in 2010 before becoming its executive director, a position he held until September, said the situation at the agency is going to get worse. ‘The backlog keeps growing,’ Eisenmann said. ‘People keep waiting, including agencies.’
He added that MSPB employees themselves suffer from a lack of top political leadership…. Career attorneys will continue to prepare opinions for board members, but their work will stall at the top until a quorum is restored. ‘It’s bad all around,’ Eisenmann said.”
When it comes to the DOD IG’s “completion reports,” whistleblower case oversight and referrals to DOD component offices, evidence proves that scandalous corruption is standard operating procedure.
Even worse than being referred to an office that delays or ignores your complaint, the cases that the DOD IG refers to DOD component offices are often referrals back to the offices that the whistleblower is accusing of misconduct, which is a significant part of this crisis and has led to a record number of retaliations against whistleblowers.
The DOD IG has a well-proven track record of referring whistleblower complaint cases to the very people and offices who are being accused of corruption and crimes in those cases. As the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported, “whistleblowers felt the [DOD] IG needlessly exposed them to additional retaliation, and had they known the IG was going to refer their disclosures they would have chosen to withdraw their complaints.”
To get a more in-depth understanding of what whistleblowers are up against, in a rare case where a whistleblower was able to get justice for American taxpayers — after spending over two years battling against many retaliation attacks, which led to his demotion, involuntary transfer, unpaid suspension, character assassination and eventual resignation — Kirk McGill, who was a Senior Auditor for the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), summed up his nightmare in dealing with the DOD IG by saying:
“A number of my colleagues and superiors told me that attempting to contact DOD IG as a whistleblower was futile, and they have been proven totally correct. It is clear that DOD IG is either one of the most incompetent investigative agencies in the history of that profession, or is deliberately being obtuse.
As noted repeatedly… DOD IG was told in a disclosure that DCAA IRD [Internal Review Directorate] was compromised…. Yet, despite this fact, DOD IG continued to refer complaints to IRD as if nothing was wrong. In doing so, DOD IG handed the very people that were retaliating against me, related to the whistleblower disclosures, specific details of the allegations I was making against them.
Even Inspector Clouseau would recognize that something is wrong with this picture.”
After the DOD IG referred McGill’s case to the DCAA IRD, the DCAA IRD then engaged in a series of highly scandalous actions in attempts to discredit and silence McGill. They even falsely accused him of being a terrorist who wanted to blow up the Capitol Building, and they also made false accusations that he was mentally ill.
A Wikipedia page featuring information about McGill’s case was vandalized and derogatory comments smearing his reputation were added to the website. The IP address that made those “edits” to the Wikipedia entry came from internal DCAA servers. In addition to all of that, McGill’s social media accounts were hacked.
Keep in mind, this all happened to a Senior DOD Auditor for the Defense Contract Audit Agency who was vindicated after multiple Congressional hearings.
As a military spending auditor, in this case alone, McGill saved American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and this is how the DOD IG and Defense Contract Audit Agency, who oversee trillions of tax dollars, tried to silence him.
It took McGill over 10,000 hours of work, two trips to Washington D.C. and incredible personal costs — while under constant intimidation and retaliation attacks, which ultimately led to him resigning — to eventually get justice for American taxpayers.
How many people in the military have the time or money needed to pull that off?
McGill’s heroic battle featured common obstacles that many DOD whistleblowers face. In a letter to Congress, McGill further highlighted the DOD IG’s systemic failure:
“DOD IG closed this allegation without discussing the matter with me directly in any way. It then either closed or referred every complaint (with two exceptions) right back to DCAA-IRD.
I do not believe that any faith can be placed in DOD IG if it passes the buck to the very people accused of the misconduct in question, putting them on notice of exactly what they are accused of, and who did the accusing.
Frankly, DOD IG’s conduct is, in and of itself, worthy of Congressional attention and possible action; no whistleblower with two brain cells to rub together would trust the DOD IG after this conduct, and that should seriously concern the Congress that relies on such whistleblowers to uncover Executive Branch misconduct.”
Not surprisingly, with the DOD IG working in partnership with agencies and officials who are being accused of corruption and crimes, there are now a record number of whistleblowers who have been retaliated against and silenced.
Here are several key findings from the GAO’s investigation into DOD whistleblower reprisal cases, which were also highlighted in my previous report:
“According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, over 1000 whistleblowers have been retaliated against and silenced at the Office of the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG). Over a three-year period, the DOD IG closed 1094 whistleblower retaliation cases without investigating them. A stunning 91% of whistleblower reprisal complaints formally filed at the DOD IG are shutdown without any investigation.
On average, one whistleblower is retaliated against and silenced at the DOD IG every single day, 365 days a year. Over the time frame that the GAO investigated, DOD audits reported $6.87 trillion ($6,871,000,000,000) unaccounted for.
According to publicly available data from the DOD IG’s semi-annual reports to Congress, from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2016, they dismissed 86% of Military Reprisal cases, and found in favor of whistleblowers in only 0.9% of cases.
Citing that data, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said the DOD IG ‘substantiated only 7 out of over 1,300 complaints received.’ Over that time frame, DOD audits reported $8.58 trillion ($8,582,000,000,000) unaccounted for.
When it comes to cases of retaliation against whistleblowers, the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) appears to have an even worse track record than the DOD IG. An internal review of 190 whistleblower reprisal cases from six national security agencies revealed that the IC IG ruled in favor of only one whistleblower.
The IC IG ‘ruled against 99% of intelligence community employees who claimed they were retaliated against for blowing the whistle.'”
To make matters even worse, during the GAO’s audit of reprisal investigations, as scandalous as their findings were, the DOD IG was caught manipulating case records to make their whistleblower reprisal track record look better than it actually is. As POGO reported, the DOD IG’s manipulation of case records “had a significant impact on the GAO’s findings.” Therefore, when it comes to whistleblower retaliation throughout the Pentagon, the crisis is even worse than the GAO’s report reveals.
In Congressional testimony, POGO said they have “also heard directly from whistleblowers within DOD IG who have expressed serious concerns about the integrity of the office’s processes and investigations, including pressure to back-fill whistleblower case files for the GAO’s review. It is extremely rare to have whistleblowers from an IG shop come forward, but in this case we have a number of them.”
In addition, the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) was also caught trying to cover-up their whistleblower reprisal records. The IC IG’s internal review of whistleblower reprisal cases was abruptly shutdown when then-acting head IC IG Wayne Stone, “sequestered the mountain of documents and data produced in the inspection, the product of three staff-years of work. The incident was never publicly disclosed by the office, and escaped mention in the unclassified version of the IC IG’s semiannual report to Congress.”
POGO obtained a leaked copy of the report, which they summarized by saying “the document produced by the Intelligence Community’s IG, which covers 17 U.S. spy agencies, found that many components are not following, ‘legally mandated… policies, procedures and standards…. Causing non-substantiation of reprisal claims, incomplete investigations, and for complaints not to be processed.’… As evidence, the document reports that the Intelligence Community IG substantiated ‘only one reprisal allegation’ during a six-year period… and that case took 742 days to complete – well beyond the 240-day limit prescribed in regulation.”
Here are two quotes from the IC IG’s internal review report that sum up the crisis:
“The deficiencies in reprisal protections policies, procedures, and standards in the evaluated agencies are causing a failure to provide reprisal protections for individuals making protected disclosures.”
“A complainant alleging reprisal for making a protected disclosure has a minimal chance to have a complaint processed and adjudicated in a timely and complete manner.”
To be clear, while corruption clearly plays a significant role in silencing whistleblowers, there are still ethical Inspector General investigators who do their best to protect whistleblowers and investigate corruption, as will be highlighted later in this report. However, there are not nearly enough of them and they are completely overwhelmed by complaints.
A significant focus of the GAO report, as also previously highlighted in the crisis at the Office of Special Council and the Merit Systems Protection Board, is the DOD IG’s failure to handle whistleblower cases in a timely manner. The longer a whistleblower case takes to complete, the higher the likelihood of retaliation and the longer ongoing corruption continues, and in reprisal cases the time in which they are investigated and resolved is critical to preventing further reprisals and unjust disciplinary actions.
When the GAO questioned the DOD IG’s reprisal case dismissal rate and the lack of timely closure of cases, the DOD IG said that they couldn’t keep up with the number of reprisal complaints coming in: “DOD IG officials noted that the number of whistleblower reprisal cases increased from 1,013 to 2,002 (98 percent) over the past 5 years.”
However, in fiscal year 2018, the DOD IG only closed 73 reprisal case investigations.
As the GAO report also revealed, military service Inspector Generals have been overwhelmed by complaints as well:
“Military service IG officials provided several reasons for not meeting the internal and statutory timeliness goals for notifications, intake reviews, and investigations. Specifically, officials cited an increasing number of complaints; the increasing complexity of complaints, such as those that include multiple allegations and subjects; staffing challenges, such as training related to the rotation of military staff; and the use of reservists, who only work part-time.”
In defending its systemic failure to handle cases in a timely manner, the DOD IG also cited “the number of high-priority senior official cases concurrently open, and the increasing scope and complexity of investigations.”
As for the DOD IG’s overall handling of cases, including those charging Senior Officials of reprisal misconduct, the GAO reported:
“DOD IG did not meet internal or statutory timeliness goals related to the percentage or average days for senior official or reprisal investigations.
DOD IG closed 73 [reprisal] investigations in fiscal year 2018, including 13 senior official misconduct cases and 60 military, contractor, and civilian reprisal cases.
Overall, about 85 percent of all investigations did not meet the timeliness goal….
DOD IG similarly did not meet its investigation timeliness goals for senior official misconduct and reprisal investigations in fiscal year 2017.”
The DOD IG also rarely investigates whistleblower complaints against high-ranking civilian DOD officials. As the GAO reported, in fiscal years 2013 through 2017, “DOD IG closed 129 misconduct and reprisal cases… with complaints involving a civilian DOD Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) subject. Of the 129 cases closed, DOD IG dismissed without investigation 125 cases and investigated the remaining four….”
In other words, when it comes to misconduct and reprisal cases against high-ranking civilian DOD officials, 97% of the cases are “dismissed without investigation.”
GAO Reveals Systemic Failure to Protect Whistleblower Confidentiality
The new GAO investigation revealed critical systemic breakdowns when it comes to protecting whistleblower identities and case confidentiality. Given the overall state of corruption throughout Inspector General offices and the CIA’s unconstitutional “routine counterintelligence” surveillance of whistleblower communications, the breakdown in confidentiality and identity protections that the GAO investigations have uncovered amount to complete systemic failure, and emphatically demonstrate an overall disregard for protecting whistleblowers.
Here are highlights from the GAO investigation into the protection of whistleblower identities and case confidentiality:
“… between 2016 and 2018, employees in all of the IGs have been able to access sensitive whistleblower information without a need to know.
For example, DOD IG determined that numerous restricted whistleblower records in its document repository were accessible to DOD IG personnel without a need to know.
Similarly, the Air Force IG’s application did not restrict users from other DOD components from viewing Air Force IG case descriptions and complainant identities, while the Army IG’s application and the Naval IG’s system did not restrict personnel within those IGs from viewing allegations or investigations involving other personnel within those IGs.
Additionally, employees in Marine Corps IG offices were able to see whistleblower cases assigned to other IG offices without a need to know….
DOD IG Does Not Fully Restrict Employee Access to Sensitive Whistleblower Information
DOD IG’s Case Management System Does Not Include Some Controls to Restrict Internal Employee Access
… employees at the three DOD IG directorates that are principally responsible for handling whistleblower information are generally able to access sensitive whistleblower information belonging to other directorates in both the Defense Case Activity Tracking System (D-CATS) – DOD IG’s whistleblower case management system — and an associated document repository, that is not necessary to accomplish assigned tasks.
NIST Special Publication 800-53, Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations, states that organizations should employ the core security principle of least privilege, which allows only authorized access for users that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions.
DOD IG employees in the DOD Hotline, senior official investigations directorate, and whistleblower reprisal investigations directorate are able to access whistleblower information belonging to other DOD IG directorates in both D-CATS and its associated document management repository because DOD IG has not developed sufficient system controls needed to restrict access across the three directorates.
For example, a DOD IG employee in either the senior officials or reprisal investigations directorates can access Hotline records in D-CATS that the employee does not have a need to access….”
As the GAO shockingly discovered, for the past seven years the DOD IG has been knowingly using a system that does not protect whistleblower confidentiality, and they have not prioritized fixing known critical problems:
“According to an August 2018 internal DOD IG memo, the lack of controls to restrict access to information across the three directorates has been known since the system was established in 2012….
… the incremental release schedule for D-CATSe [the new whistleblower case management system] has been delayed, and the IGs are not expected to fully transition to the new system until fiscal year 2021….
However, DOD IG does not plan to take other actions to address the lack of crossdirectorate controls before the advent of the enterprise system.
Additionally… it has not developed an assurance plan for testing controls, according to DOD IG officials, or fully defined the system requirements needed to implement these controls and ensure it has achieved least privilege both within and across the user IGs.
Without considering interim actions to address the lack of D-CATS cross-directorate access controls, DOD IG may be unable to sufficiently mitigate security risks while D-CATSe is developed. Also, without developing a plan with assurance controls for achieving least privilege in D-CATSe, DODIG may be unable to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive whistleblower information during its implementation.
DOD IG Has Identified Instances Involving Improper Employee IT Access Rights to Whistleblower Information
Separate from the lack of cross-directorate controls, DOD IG has identified multiple instances in which sensitive but unclassified whistleblower information in the DOD IG Administrative Investigations directorate whistleblower case management system and document repository was accessible to DOD IG personnel who did not have a need to know this information.
These instances involve DOD Hotline records that are specifically restricted to protect complainants requesting confidentiality, along with records belonging to DOD IG’s Office of Professional Responsibility — which handles internal DOD IG misconduct complaints….
DOD IG has determined that its user access issues are broadly attributable to system administration and application problems, including permission changes resulting from system updates….
However, DOD IG’s process does not include steps to test document repository permissions after case management system updates, which were determined by DOD IG to be the cause of some permission issues.
Without including such steps in its process, DOD IG lacks assurance that system permissions will align with business needs on an ongoing basis, and therefore may not be able to appropriately control user accounts to prevent unauthorized access by system users.
Sensitive Whistleblower Information Has Been Accessible to Military Service IG Employees without a Need to Know
The military service IGs’ case management systems and applications… do not fully restrict employee access to sensitive whistleblower information…. As previously discussed, NIST guidelines state that organizations should only provide authorized access to users which is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions….
Employee Access Issues Involving Military Service IG Information Systems and Applications
DOD IG found in its 2017 quality assurance review that the Air Force IG’s application allowed users from other DOD component IGs (such as the Defense Contract Audit Agency [IRD] IG) to view case descriptions and complainant identities for cases belonging to the Air Force IG, and that it did not restrict the system support contractor from viewing cases that involved its employees.
DOD IG found in its 2018 quality assurance review that the Army IG’s application did not restrict Army IG personnel without a need to know from accessing allegations involving Army IG personnel.
Marine Corps IG officials told us in August 2018 that employees in Marine Corps IG offices were able to see cases assigned to other Marine Corps IG offices without a need to know, and that the application contained other similar malfunctions, such as returning search results for a user other than the user performing the search, within the same IG office.
DOD IG found in its 2016 quality assurance review that the Naval IG’s system did not prevent Naval IG personnel from viewing investigations involving other internal Naval IG personnel, and that it did not adequately restrict employee access to senior official investigations.
At the time of our review, the military service IGs had not taken steps to fully address the identified access issues. Specifically, Air Force officials stated that they did not plan to address the application access issues because they did not have funding to continue developing their existing application prior to transitioning to D-CATSe, although they would explore whether solutions were possible within current fiscal constraints during the next system maintenance evaluation.
Similarly, Army IG officials stated that while the Army IG had resources to further develop its existing case management application, they had elected to not use those resources to remedy the identified access issue in light of the future arrival of D-CATSe.
In addition, Naval IG officials reported taking action to restrict senor official investigations, but did not provide information to us on actions taken to address DOD IG’s recommendation to restrict cases involving internal Naval IG personnel.
Finally, Marine Corps IG officials stated that access restrictions would be implemented as part of an application redesign scheduled to be complete by the end of 2018. However, these officials also noted that they have not identified the root of the access problem or developed a plan to ensure that needed access restrictions are implemented and functioning properly, raising questions as to whether the redesign will fully restrict access on a continuing basis.
As mentioned previously, the Marine Corps’ case management application is also exempt from testing under the DOD IT risk management process, and therefore is not subject to routine security assurance testing.
Federal Standards for Internal Control state that management should analyze and respond to risks, and evaluate and remediate internal control deficiencies on a timely basis, including those related to audit findings.
Further, NIST guidelines state that organizations should design and prioritize activities to mitigate security risks, and that alternative strategies, such as plans, may be needed when an organization cannot apply controls to adequately reduce or mitigate risk. These guidelines also encourage organizations to obtain assurance-related evidence on an ongoing basis in order to maintain the trustworthiness of information systems.
As previously discussed, D-CATSe is being implemented incrementally, with releases for the Naval IG and the Air Force and Army IGs not scheduled to occur until fiscal years 2020 and 2021, respectively.
By considering actions prior to the advent of D-CATSe, the Air Force, Army, and Naval IGs could mitigate existing risks to whistleblower confidentiality by reducing the potential for unauthorized employee access of whistleblower records….
Recognizing this potential, a senior DOD IG official noted concern regarding the possible extent of confidentiality violations stemming from these and the other access issues previously discussed in this report.
Additionally, DOD IG requested that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigate the April 2018 incident involving 946 case folders to determine who accessed the identified records.
[Note: To understand the overall scale of this breach, the 946 case folders that were improperly accessed are equivalent to every completion report that the DOD IG provided oversight to.]
Without steps to address these ongoing IT access issues, the potential for additional violations of whistleblower confidentiality will persist….
Specifically, without further steps — such as considering interim actions to mitigate the lack of cross-directorate access controls, developing a plan, along with the military service IGs for achieving least privilege in the future enterprise case management system, and enhancing the process for periodically validating user privileges — DOD IG may not be able to ensure that access controls in its existing and future case management systems align with business needs on an ongoing basis.
Similarly, without considering actions to further restrict IG employee access in existing IT, the Air Force, Army, and Naval IGs may be unable to mitigate ongoing risks to whistleblower confidentiality.
Finally, without a plan for ensuring that access restrictions in its redesigned case management system function properly, the Marine Corps IG may be unable to fully ensure whistleblower confidentiality.”
Despite the lack of whistleblower confidentiality system controls, the previously mentioned instances featuring 946 case folders being improperly accessed and the common occurrence of referring cases back to the office that retaliated against the whistleblower, in fiscal years 2013 – 2018, the DOD IG substantiated confidentiality violations only 8 times, which represented 0.01% of the 95,613 complaints they handled.
As the GAO report summarized:
“Specifically, DOD IG identified 8 substantiated violations of whistleblower confidentiality between fiscal years 2013 and 2018, representing approximately .01 percent of the 95,613 contacts handled by DOD IG during that timeframe, according to DOD IG officials.”
With the exception of the Army IG, which “identified 6 substantiated violations of whistleblower confidentiality between these years,” the military service IGs were even worse than the DOD IG. The Air Force, Naval, and Marine Corps IGs said they “were unaware of any substantiated incidences of confidentiality violations,” over that timeframe. They then admitted that they don’t even “track such incidents in their case management systems.”
When it comes to other vital whistleblower offices, such as the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and the OSC, the systemic disregard for whistleblower confidentiality is apparent, as the GAO reported:
“Similarly, CIGIE Integrity Committee and Office of Special Counsel officials stated that they were unaware of and do not specifically track confidentiality violations, and we did not identify any confidentiality violations in the fiscal year 2013-2018 data they provided to us that involved DOD IG employees.
However, as a GAO survey revealed, even under obvious risk of retaliation, “DOD IG employees separately reported potential violations of whistleblower confidentiality.” When it comes to “the most common avoidable disclosure described by survey respondents,” which was defined as “distributing whistleblower materials to the wrong official or agency,” the GAO said, “Survey respondents reported that in such instances corrective action included recalling the complaint and deleting the erroneously sent record….”
As the GAO report also revealed, accessing confidential whistleblower files from outside of DOD IG offices is a known problem as well, and the DOD IG has not provided evidence that cases of improper access are investigated:
“However, information provided to us by DOD IG does not show that accessibility was limited in all instances to employees within one of those DOD IG offices.
Also, the ability of any employee to access records that were specifically restricted to protect complainant identities or internal records belonging to the Office of Professional Responsibility is problematic given the increased sensitivity of such records.
Further… DOD IG did not provide evidence that all cases of improper access were thoroughly investigated, as we state in our report, and the instances included in the report are examples and not inclusive of all instances of improper access identified by the DOD IG….”
As covered in the previous report, retaliation against DOD IG investigators who blow the whistle on other DOD IG investigators has become a significant part of this crisis as well.
Regarding the lack of protections for internal complaints by DOD IG employees against other DOD IG employees, which are reviewed by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), the GAO reported:
“DOD IG guidance for protecting whistleblowers who report internal DOD IG misconduct does not specify key steps investigators should take to protect confidentiality, such as not identifying complainants during interviews with case subjects….
Some of the DOD IG employees we surveyed reported concern that DOD IG’s process for reporting employee misconduct and resolving internal complaints may not protect whistleblower confidentiality….
In addition, DOD IG’s Office of General Counsel does not have documented procedures for controlling access to cases involving designated DOD IG staff members subject to review by the CIGIE Integrity Committee….
Until DOD IG develops guidance that incorporates procedures to protect confidentiality and documents how to maintain whistleblower confidentiality throughout the CIGIE referral process, it will lack reasonable assurance that its process for investigating internal misconduct allegations can fully protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers….”
A common theme when it comes to the Pentagon’s conduct is the significant number of solutions that the GAO and the Office of the Inspector General have proposed to them that do not get implemented – as covered in the previous report, there are hundreds of egregious examples of unimplemented solutions.
In this latest example, when it comes to conducting reprisal investigations, the DOD IG has not implemented quality performance measures that the GAO has recommended, even though the DOD IG said they would.
“… we recommended in September 2017 that DOD IG develop quality performance measures and enhance then-existing timeliness measures to reflect key attributes of successful performance measures, and DOD IG concurred.
In November 2018, DOD IG officials stated that DOD IG is currently using the quality measures it had in place prior to fiscal year 2017….
As a result, we continue to believe that our 2017 recommendation is valid in that DOD IG’s performance measures should reflect key attributes of successful performance measures….”
After this most recent March 2019 investigation, the GAO is now making another 12 recommendations:
“Recommendations for Executive Action….
The DOD Inspector General should coordinate with the IGs of the military services to take additional actions to improve performance against unmet timeliness goals. This includes steps to improve performance of senior official misconduct investigations and military service reprisal intakes, and to resolve disagreement on notifications. (Recommendation 1)
The DOD Inspector General should issue formal guidance documenting procedures for protecting the confidentiality of whistleblowers throughout its internal misconduct investigation process. (Recommendation 2)
The Air Force Inspector General should establish procedures to fully reflect and implement DOD policy on the protection of whistleblower confidentiality. (Recommendation 3)
The Marine Corps Inspector General should establish procedures to fully reflect and implement DOD policy on the protection of whistleblower confidentiality. (Recommendation 4)
The Naval Inspector General should establish procedures to fully reflect and implement DOD policy on the protection of whistleblower confidentiality. (Recommendation 5)
The DOD Inspector General should consider interim actions as the whistleblower enterprise case management system is being developed to help ensure that access to sensitive whistleblower information in the current case management system and associated document repository is limited to information that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks. (Recommendation 6)
The DOD Inspector General should coordinate with the IGs of the military services to develop a plan to fully restrict case access in the future whistleblower enterprise case management system so that user access is limited to information necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions. (Recommendation 7)
The DOD Inspector General should enhance its process for periodically reviewing whistleblower case management system and document repository user privileges by including steps to ensure that such privileges remain valid after system updates, as appropriate. (Recommendation 8)
The Air Force Inspector General should consider interim actions as the whistleblower enterprise case management system is being developed to help ensure that access for users of existing applications is limited to information that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions. (Recommendation 9)
The Army Inspector General should consider interim actions as the whistleblower enterprise case management system is being developed to help ensure that access for users of existing applications is limited to information that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions. (Recommendation 10)
The Marine Corps Inspector General should develop a plan to ensure that its redesigned whistleblower case management application restricts user access to information based on what is needed to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions. (Recommendation 11)
The Naval Inspector General should consider interim actions as the whistleblower enterprise case management system is being developed to help ensure that access for users of existing applications is limited to information that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions. (Recommendation 12).”
Under the Guise of National Security, Corruption Runs Amok, “There Is No Oversight”
Other than all the corruption throughout the DOD IG, Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) offices have been involved in many scandals. In addition to the previously cited IC IG whistleblower reprisal cases, the CIA, NSA and DIA Inspector Generals have all been caught up in wide-ranging whistleblower-related scandals.
As made clear by lead IC IG investigators, when it comes to covert operations and classified information, corruption is rampant and has now become a critical National Security vulnerability.
David Steele, a 40-year military and intelligence veteran who led an investigation unit at the Defense Intelligence Agency IG’s office, has called the overall situation an “intelligence community-wide vulnerability.”
After Steele blew the whistle on the head DIA IG for manipulating case records and shutting down investigations, he summed up the crisis by saying:
“There is no oversight. Inspector Generals are the good guys. What happens when your Inspector General is a bad guy?
The Inspector General is incapable of policing itself. Who’s watching the watchers?”
David Steele and Ron Foster, the former head of DIA IG investigations, were fired from the DIA IG without warning, and most of their co-workers have now left as well. As Foreign Policy reported: “Almost everyone who once worked for Steele in the Office of the Inspector General has fled the agency, or is looking to leave, an exodus he attributes to the toxic atmosphere created by the official in charge.”
Special Agents like Steele and Foster are part of a growing number of high-level IC IG investigators who are blowing the whistle on head IGs. Jonathan Kaplan, a 33-year veteran investigator at the CIA IG, is one of several whistleblowers to file complaints against Christopher Sharpley, the CIA’s former acting head IG and Trump’s nominee to be permanent head IG.
Special Agent Kaplan said he “was retaliated against because of his legally protected communications with the Senate and House Committees on Intelligence and with the Intelligence Community’s Office of the Inspector General.”
As POGO reported, “Kaplan says he had gone to the Committees and others with a concern that the CIA IG’s investigative and oversight capabilities were being compromised. Soon after, he said, retaliators including Sharpley placed false and derogatory information in his personal security file at the Agency, leading to the loss of his security clearance, rendering his continued CIA employment untenable.” (See below for more information on the CIA’s unconstitutional surveillance of congressional communications with whistleblowers.)
According to the POGO report, many CIA IG investigators have spoken out about the CIA IG’s corrupt actions, citing a “hostile work environment,” and “abruptly relieving certain managers and investigators of substantive investigative case work.”
A CIA IG employee complaint “cites actions featuring an element of ‘cruelty and malice’ by IG management as sweeping changes were imposed on a group of veteran investigators.”
Another complaint says, “The reorganization… is the latest in a series of intimidating and bullying tactics employed to move out current INV (investigation division) staff….'”
Complaints accuse “CIA IG management of ‘misuse of position, abuse of resources, including unnecessary use of IG subpoenas, corruption, waste of taxpayer funds, and more.”
As POGO makes clear, “These are the very elements that an IG is expected to prevent and protect the Agency against.”
A report from Pro Publica on CIA IG corruption also features several shocking revelations: “The CIA whistleblowers who suffered reprisal were trying to report some really serious criminal activity within the inspector general’s office — the fabrication of evidence in a criminal case where the people who did it were never punished,” said John Tye, an attorney for CIA IG whistleblowers.
“The situation within CIA OIG is a systemic mission failure that must be corrected,” said former CIA IG Special Agent Investigator and whistleblower Andrew Bakaj.
The NSA IG has had their share of scandals as well. For one example, former head NSA IG George Ellard — the man who said Edward Snowden could have gone through internal channels to blow the whistle — was fired for retaliating against a whistleblower who reported wasteful spending of taxpayer money.
However, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stepped in and shockingly reversed his termination. National Security analyst Patrick Eddington summed up the situation:
“The Pentagon offered no explanation as to why Mattis chose to overrule the IG External Review Panel and NSA’s current director, but the message is abundantly clear: if you work in Pentagon management and retaliate against a whistleblower, there’s a good chance you’ll keep your job. And if you are a prospective whistleblower, the message is equally clear: You blow the whistle at your own risk.”
To once again emphatically prove that point, and to make matters even worse, in another scandalous example of corruption run amok, Dan Meyer, the Intelligence Community IG’s Head of Whistleblowing and Source Protection, was abruptly fired last year under scandalous circumstances. As POGO reported, Meyer was “escorted out of the building while his office was ‘sealed off with crime-scene tape.'” The move was widely considered “retaliation against him for blowing the whistle… [on] ‘security infractions’ after raising concerns about a ‘systematic failure’ to implement whistleblower protections.”
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) said Meyer “was terminated in a process marked by procedural irregularities and serious conflicts of interest” while the IC IG’s acting leadership “demonstrated a lack of support for the critical whistleblower protection mission of the office.”
As Meyer’s case and the other high-level Inspector General whistleblower cases previously cited demonstrate, when head IG’s engage in corrupt activities, lead investigators are turning to congress for help. However, even Congress, who has the Constitutional oversight responsibility in these matters, has been compromised, and has proven to be ineffective when it comes to supporting whistleblowers.
In shocking revelations recently revealed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as “routine counterintelligence” surveillance, the CIA has been illegally and unconstitutionally spying on Congress in their investigations and communications with whistleblowers.
As Just Security reported:
“Thanks to information recently released by the Senate Judiciary Committee, we now have fresh, incontrovertible evidence that elements of the Intelligence Community (IC) have monitored the communications of employees or contractors seeking to report waste, fraud, abuse or potential criminal conduct by IC agencies – including communications to House and Senate committees charged with oversight of the IC….
Based on the available public evidence, we also know that nobody in the IC responsible for such domestic spying [on Congress and whistleblowers] has lost their job or faced a criminal referral to the Justice Department. The implications of this are multiple and chilling.”
As Senator Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “The fact that the CIA… was reading congressional staff’s emails about Intelligence Community whistleblowers raises serious policy concerns, as well as potential constitutional separation-of-powers issues that must be discussed publicly.”
Dan Meyer and Jonathan Kaplan are both high-level officials who blew the whistle on systemic corruption throughout the Intelligence Community by going to Congress for help, and both of them were illegally and unconstitutionally spied on by the CIA.
In response to this urgent crisis, the bipartisan House of Representatives Whistleblower Protection Caucus, working with the IC IG’s fired Head of Whistleblowing and Source Protection Dan Meyer, has recently approved a new congressional Whistleblower office. However, it has not been funded yet, and to prove how weak congress continues to be when it comes to protecting IC whistleblowers, the new House office will not protect whistleblowers who deal with classified information.
Here’s a report from Government Executive on the new congressional whistleblower office, featuring insightful quotes from Dan Meyer:
“House Creates New Whistleblower Ombudsman
By a 418-12 vote, the House on Thursday approved Title II of a larger resolution creating the position appointed by the chamber’s speaker and supervised by the House Administration Committee to ‘promulgate best practices for whistleblower intake for offices of the House.’ It will also ‘provide training for offices of the House on whistleblower intake, including establishing an effective reporting system for whistleblowers, maintaining whistleblower confidentiality, advising staff of relevant laws and policies, and protecting information provided by whistleblowers,’ the resolution said.
Creation of the office — still unfunded — was spearheaded by… the bipartisan House Whistleblower Protection Caucus who in 2013 set up a whistleblower hotline to ease the way for agency employees who wish to disclose wrongdoing without jeopardizing their careers….
The agencies whose employees can use the new House office — which does not require Senate or presidential approval — do not include those in the intelligence community, where whistleblower advocates have long complained about ‘gag orders.’
One specialist who helped plan the office was Dan Meyer, the previous whistleblower ombudsman for the intelligence community who fought unsuccessfully to keep his job in part addressing issues of communicating with Congress.
‘Congress cannot, now, protect its sources from reprisal by the executive branch,’ he told Government Executive on Monday.
The agency that investigates whistleblower complaints governmentwide, the Office of Special Counsel, is ‘under resourced and overwhelmed,’ said Meyer, now a partner at the Tully Rinckey law firm. And the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears employee appeals and provides research on related issues, ‘has an eight-year-backlog. Inspectors general can make findings if the allegations are not about inspectors general, but they cannot provide a remedy.’
Hence, Meyer said, ‘This puts congressional sources in the bullseye, and the most effective tools Congress has in protecting its sources are authorization and appropriations bills’ that affect agencies that take action against whistleblowers.
The new office has value as ‘an educational resource,’ said Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst for the Government Accountability Project. But Intelligence Community members who wish to disclose wrongdoing continue to ‘run into problems’ because they are often required to deal first with their agency’s congressional affairs offices, where their message gets delayed. The result, McCullough said, ‘is that Congress’s oversight authority is limited.'”
When it comes to whistleblowers revealing corruption throughout classified programs and operations, getting a complaint acknowledged, let alone investigated, is extremely rare. As the GAO investigation summed it up:
“Cases including classified information constituted a small percentage of cases closed by DOD IG and the military service IGs in fiscal year 2017, with the percentage of those closed by DOD IG directorates — including the DOD Hotline and the whistleblower reprisal and senior official investigations — ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent, according to DOD IG officials.
Officials from each of the military service IGs reported closing no classified cases in fiscal year 2017….”
In addition to whistleblower communications being under survelliance by the CIA, as previously mentioned, people who work throughout the Intelligence Community work under highly controversial gag orders, which further limit their ability to effectively blow the whistle on corrupt and criminal activities.
As the evidence overwhelming demonstrates, under the guise of National Security, corruption is running amok. The chain of accountability has been effectively dismantled, leading to, as veteran IC IG investigator and whistleblower David Steele has said, a critical “intelligence community-wide vulnerability.”
Congress must begin wide-scale investigations into the epidemic of systemic corruption throughout the Pentagon. The ultimate responsibility for the trillions of tax dollars in military spending that have gone unaccounted for lies with Congress.
As National Security analyst Patrick Eddington summed it up:
“Why has Warner, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee — who is clearly aware of the gravity of these issues — not prioritized them like he has the Russia investigation?
Why did Grassley dither for years in the Meyer case when he had a legal sledgehammer to cut off the salaries of out-of-control CIA bureaucrats spying on whistleblowers trying to convey their concerns to Congress?…
There’s a world of difference between the kind of feckless, press-cycle ‘oversight’ practiced by Grassley and Warner and the kind of accountability-driven action that should be the hallmark of the committees on which both serve.
Grassley, Warner, and their Senate and House colleagues have, thanks to the country’s founders, ample Article I power to aggressively protect IC whistleblowers and punish their bureaucrat retaliators. That they choose not to is precisely why the fraud, waste, corruption and criminal conduct in the IC continues apace.”
The DOD Dominates GAO’s 2019 High-Risk List, For Past 25 Years DOD “Cannot Accurately Account For & Report On Its Spending or Assets”
The Government Accountability Office recently released their “2019 High-Risk List.” As usual, many DOD areas of operation were flagged as being “most vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse.”
Here is a list of the most egregious DOD-related offenders:
DOD Financial Management
DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition
DOD Business Systems Modernization
DOD Support Infrastructure Management
DOD Approach to Business Transformation
Government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process
Ensuring the Cybersecurity of the Nation
Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions
Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests
VA Acquisition Management
DOE’s Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration
DOD Contract Management
Managing Risks and Improving VA Health Care
Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources
Transforming EPA’s Processes for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals
If you are wondering how trillions of tax dollars can go unaccounted for, consider this GAO 2019 High-Risk statement, which is very similar to previous statements that have been featured in every High-Risk report since 1995:
“DOD’s financial management continues to face long-standing issues — including its decentralized environment; cultural resistance to change; lack of skilled financial management staff; ineffective processes, systems, and controls; incomplete corrective action plans; and the need for more effective monitoring and reporting.
DOD financial management was first added to our High-Risk List in 1995.
DOD remains one of the few federal entities that cannot accurately account for and report on its spending or assets.
DOD’s discretionary spending makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary spending, and its assets represent more than 70 percent of the federal government’s physical assets….
According to DOD Office of Inspector General (OIG) ineffective information technology systems’ controls hinder DOD’s ability to produce accurate, timely, and reliable financial information.
DOD’s auditors issued more than 1,100 systems-related findings and recommendations during the fiscal year 2018 financial statement audit and the DOD OIG has reported multiple material financial systems that do not comply with federal systems requirements.
These weaknesses pose a significant risk to DOD operations and could, for example, result in payments and collections being lost, stolen, or duplicated.
They may also open the department up to other cyber threats across different networks and systems….”
As previously reported, “solutions to known problems which can save tens of billions of dollars annually have not been implemented.”
The Federal News Network reported on two of the 15 DOD-related High-Risk areas:
“The [High Risk] list, released Wednesday, states efforts to shore up problems with DoD weapons systems acquisition remain ‘unchanged’ since GAO’s last high-risk list in 2017. GAO made the same assessment of the Pentagon’s contract management issues, though with a few positive caveats.
The two items on the high-risk list account for almost $2 trillion in taxpayer funds — about $1.66 trillion in investments of 86 major weapons systems and $300 billion in annual contracted services for the Pentagon. Both of the items have been on GAO’s high-risk list since the early 1990s….
DoD demonstrated progress was lackluster in the past two years. ‘DoD programs continue to not fully implement knowledge-based acquisition practices, which increases the risk of undesirable cost and schedule outcomes,’ the report states.
The military still has not implemented leading practices and lessons to make greater use of existing financial awards for good performance…. Additionally, DoD has not identified a plan with specific goals or performance measures to implement across its acquisition portfolio to achieve better results….
DoD faces many of the same problems with contract management. Even with congressional changes and authorities, the Pentagon’s improvements are lacking…. DoD still has not implemented ways to improve its acquisition workforce, service acquisitions or operational contract support.
‘Over the years since we added this area to our high-risk list, we have made numerous recommendations related to these high-risk issues, 18 of which were made since the last high-risk update in February 2017,’ the report states. ‘As of November 2018, 41 recommendations related to this high-risk area are open.’
While DoD increased its acquisition leadership and bettered training, there is still no framework for the acquisition workforce that identifies key times frames, metrics or projected budgetary requirements associated with key goals or strategic priorities.
DoD still has not developed plans to use an annual inventory of contracted services for workforce and budget decisions, which is statutorily required, and the department still needs to develop metrics to track progress associated with shaping the future of the acquisition workforce….”
In another recent government report, the DOD IG summed up 2018 Pentagon audit findings:
“As described in this report, the audits identified many deficiencies in DoD financial management and reporting — 20 overall material weaknesses and more than 2,400 notices of findings and recommendations, including weak information technology controls, insufficient controls to ensure the accuracy and completeness of property, and incomplete universes of financial transactions.
It is critical for the DoD to implement corrective action plans and to monitor the implementation of those corrective actions….
In addition, DoD Components had 37 instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations…. Similar to material weaknesses, many of the instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations are similar between Components. For example, most Components did not fully comply with the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982 or the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996….
On November 15, 2018, the DoD OIG issued a disclaimer of opinion on the FY 2018 Agency Wide Basic Financial Statements, meaning an overall opinion could not be expressed on the financial statements under audit. After compiling over 2,400 DoD Component NFRs and 129 DoD Component material weakness, the DoD OIG identified 20 Agency Wide material weaknesses….
In addition to these material weaknesses, the DoD OIG identified five instances of non compliance with laws and regulations across the DoD. Specifically, the DoD did not comply with the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982, the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996, the Antideficiency Act, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014, and the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996….
Significant DoD Material Weaknesses
As noted… the DoD OIG identified 20 Agency Wide material weaknesses during the FY 2018 audit. DoD management is responsible for prioritizing the findings and corrective action plans to address these material weaknesses. Most of these weaknesses affect most of the DoD Components. Each can hinder the DoD’s efforts to improve its business processes and achieve auditable financial statements and are critically important to correct.
In our judgment, six material weaknesses stand out as most significant.
1. Financial Management Systems and Information Technology (IT)
2. Universe of Transactions
4. Property, Plant, and Equipment (PP&E)
5. Fund Balance with Treasury
6. Financial Statement Compilation….”
As noted repeatedly, these critical material weaknesses and non-compliance with laws and regulations have been known for years, yet have never been corrected.
The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants highlighted the 20 “material weaknesses” that the auditors detected:
“* Multiple material financial management systems that did not comply with federal requirements, and did not implement internal controls over their IT environment to sufficiently deter fraud, waste and abuse, which prevent the DoD from collecting and reporting accurate financial information.
* Inability to validate the completeness of the ‘universe of transactions underlying their financial statements,’ which meant they could not perform reconciliations with financial statement line items, which in turn inhibited the auditors’ ability to detect errors.
* Lack of process for properly compiling statements into the Agency-Wide Basic Financial Statements.
* Ineffective processes and controls for reconciling their fund balance with Treasury.
* Lack of proper controls to record, report, test or reconcile transactions that should be labeled as accounts receivable.
* Lack of ability to report Operating Materials and Supplies in accordance with standards, as the systems did not maintain historical cost data and did not implement a process to accurately value all opening balances.
* Lack of systems and controls to properly provide assurance over the existence, completeness and valuation of inventory and related property recorded in the financial statements, as well as lack of policies and procedures to manage to account for inventory held by other parts of the DoD as well as government contractors.
* Inability to record general property, plant and equipment at acquisition or historical cost, substantiate the existence and completeness of its assets, and assign or determine the value for all real property and general equipment assets.
* Lack of policies and procedures to confirm the existence of government property in possession of contractors.
* Unsupported accounts payable balances as well as a lack of financial management system capabilities to properly record accounts payable transactions.
* Lack of policies and procedures to substantiate and value the DoD’s environmental and disposal liabilities.
* Failure to justify why the DoD was “unable to determine” the change of a negative outcome for legal actions against it, as standards require for accounting for legal contingencies.
* Lack of historical data in at least six agencies that support beginning balances on financial statements or give the ability to reconcile those beginning balances to closing balances at the end of the reporting period.
* $175 billion worth of unsupported journal vouchers, as well as journal vouchers posted before management could perform adequate reviews.
* Lack of ability to accurately identify, provide supporting documentation, or fully reconcile intragovernmental transactions among certain parts of the DoD.
* Failure on the part of three reporting entities to accumulate cost information and record transactions in compliance with GAAP for Statement of Net Cost.
* Because of the above item, three agencies that were unable to perform the required reconciliation with the budget.
* Failure to accurately determine total budgetary resources available during the period, and status of those resources within three of the reporting entities.
* Lack of sufficient entity-level controls to establish an internal control system that will produce reliable financial reporting.
* Lack of effective oversight and monitoring for material weaknesses.”
Beyond the trillions of taxpayer dollars that have gone unaccounted for, to begin to understand how bad operational oversight of DOD assets has been, consider these two instances cited in the GAO High Risk report:
“For example, according to a DOD official, during an initial audit, the Army found 39 Blackhawk helicopters that had not been recorded in the property system. [$819 million in value]
Similarly, the Air Force identified 478 buildings and structures at 12 installations that were not in the real property systems….”
While the GAO did give credit to the DOD for locating 39 Blackhawk helicopters and 478 buildings that had been unaccounted for, they concluded their report by saying:
“That said, hundreds of the same problems were identified again in the fiscal year 2018 audits, and hundreds of the same recommendations were re-issued.”
“Hundreds of the Same Problems”
In addition to the unaccounted for DOD assets that the GAO highlighted, the DOD IG has recently revealed several more stunning examples. As the Federal News Network reported:
“According to DoD’s auditors, property accountability issues are still among the most serious problems preventing it from passing an audit. In the first year of the full-scope examination, auditors issued more than 170 separate findings and recommendations detailing the military services shortcomings in tracking their inventory and real estate.”
Other than the 478 buildings and structures that were unaccounted for, “Instances of bad or missing data about entire warehouses worth of parts came up more than once.” At Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, it was recently discovered that $53 million in “a stockpile of missile motors was erroneously listed as unserviceable even though they were in perfectly good condition.” The Navy also found an unaccounted for warehouse that had $26 million worth of parts.
At air bases in Japan, it was discovered that “14,000 munitions worth $2.2 billion” were unaccounted for.
Another recent DOD IG audit found that an estimated “3.45 million pieces” of F-35 weapons program equipment “worth an estimated $2.1 billion” are not accounted for.
Another common theme is accounted for assets that actually don’t exist. For example, “Entire facilities that had been demolished years ago, but are still listed as active on the military’s property books.”
“‘We’ve gone out and said, ‘Give us a list of a certain asset and how many you have and where they’re located.’ And when we go, we either find that they have more than they thought, or the ones on their lists don’t exist,’ said Carmen Malone, the deputy assistant inspector general for audit.
‘If you have something in your inventory records that actually can’t be used, you’re not going to order something, because you think you already have it. From an inventory standpoint, that is a big deal.’ Malone said one of the reasons the IG considers the property issue so serious is that it has a direct bearing on military readiness….”
Not being able to account for billions of dollars in equipment and weapons obviously has a major impact on military readiness.
This is clearly a significant National Security issue, yet it has been a known critical issue for years and minimal corrective actions have been taken. In many key areas, known problems have become worse.
As shocking as these recent findings are, they are just the tip of the iceberg. As you will see, they’re just the latest examples in a long-established, well-proven track record of systemic failure to account for trillions in taxpayer dollars and assets.
Perhaps most shocking of all, despite being an overall issue featuring hundreds of front page-worthy news stories, Reuters has been the only major media company to seriously investigate this crisis, and their reporting was done back in 2013. The critical problems that they uncovered then still exist, and many of them are more severe now.
“TOO MUCH STUFF
The practical impact of the Pentagon’s accounting dysfunction is evident at the Defense Logistics Agency [DLA], which buys, stores and ships much of the Defense Department’s supplies.… It has way too much stuff. ‘We have about $14 billion of inventory for lots of reasons, and probably half of that is excess to what we need,’ Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, the director of the DLA, said…
And the DLA keeps buying more of what it already has too much of…. the DLA and the military services had $733 million worth of supplies and equipment on order that was already stocked in excess amounts on warehouse shelves. That figure was up 21% from $609 million a year earlier….
Consider the ‘vehicular control arm,’ part of the front suspension on the military’s ubiquitous High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicles, or Humvees… the DLA had 15,000 of the parts in stock, equal to a 14-year supply…. And yet… the agency bought 7,437 more of them – at prices considerably higher than it paid for the thousands sitting on its shelves.
The DLA was making the new purchases as demand plunged by nearly half… The inspector general’s report said the DLA’s buyers hadn’t checked current inventory when they signed a contract to acquire more.
Just outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the DLA operates its Eastern Distribution Center, the Defense Department’s biggest storage facility. In one of its warehouses, millions of small replacement parts for military equipment and other supplies are stored in hundreds of thousands of breadbox-size bins, stacked floor to ceiling on metal shelves in the 1.7 million-square-foot building.
Sonya Gish, director of the DLA’s process and planning directorate, works at the complex. She says no system tracks whether newly received items are put in the correct bins, and she confirmed that because of the vast quantities of material stored, comprehensive inventories are impossible…. Gish also says the distribution center does not attempt to track or estimate losses from employee theft.
The Pentagon in 2004 ordered the entire Defense Department to adopt a modern labeling system that would allow all the military branches to see quickly and accurately what supplies are on hand at the DLA and each of the services. To date, the DLA has ignored the directive to use the system…
More than one-third of the weapons and munitions the Joint Munitions Commandstores at Letterkenny and its other depots are obsolete, according to Stephen Abney, command spokesman. Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year.
The munitions sit, year after year, because in the short term, ‘it’s cheaper for the military to store it than to get rid of it,’ said Keith Byers, Letterkenny’s ammunition manager. ‘What’s counterproductive is that what you’re looking at is stocks that are going to be destroyed eventually anyway.’…
To access ammunition and other inventory still in use, depot staff often must move old explosives, much of which is stored in flimsy, thin-slatted crates.
‘Continuing to store unneeded ammunition creates potential safety, security and environmental concerns,’ Brigadier General Gustave Perna said…. The cost and danger of storing old munitions ‘frustrates me as a taxpayer,’ he said….
Joint Munitions Command scrapped a computer system that kept track of inventory and automatically generated required shipping documents. It was replaced with one that Pike says doesn’t do either.
His staff now must guess how much inventory and space Letterkenny has. The Army built at additional cost a second system to create shipping documents and an interface between the two systems. ‘We’re having problems with the interface,’ Pike says….”
Six years later, the problems at the DLA still have not been solved. In fact, the DLA recently spent over $2 billion on yet another faulty accounting system. When a 2018 audit of the DLA was attempted, it failed spectacularly. As Politico reported:
“Ernst & Young found that the Defense Logistics Agency failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects, just one of a series of examples where it lacks a paper trail for millions of dollars….
Across the board, its financial management is so weak that its leaders and oversight bodies have no reliable way to track the huge sums [$40 billion-a-year in taxpayer money] it’s responsible for, the firm warned in its initial audit… as the auditors found, the agency often has little solid evidence for where much of that money is going.”
The $2 billion spent on the DLA’s latest failed accounting system is a reoccuring theme throughout most Pentagon agencies. In total, 15 Pentagon agencies failed their 2018 audit. When it comes to “fixing” Pentagon accounting systems, there is, once again, a well-established pattern of creating very expensive new systems, which end up costing billions of tax dollars more, yet still don’t fix existing problems, and they often end up making the problem even worse. As the Reuters investigation pointed out:
Media reports of Defense Department waste tend to focus on outrageous line items: $604 toilet seats for the Navy, $7,600 coffee makers for the Air Force. These headline-grabbing outliers amount to little next to the billions the Pentagon has spent on repeated efforts to fix its bookkeeping, with little to show for it.
The Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System was intended to provide for the first time a single system to oversee transportation, supplies, maintenance and acquisitions, replacing scores of costly legacy systems. Work got under way in 2005. Delays and costs mounted… the Air Force conducted a test run. The data that poured out was mostly gibberish. The Air Force killed the project.
The system ‘has cost $1.03 billion… and has not yielded any significant military capability,’ the Air Force said….
Fixing the system would cost an additional $1.1 billion, it said, and even then, it would do only about a quarter of the tasks originally intended, and not until 2020….
[In addition] more than $1 billion was wasted when the Pentagon in 2010 ditched the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, launched in 2003 as a single, department-wide pay and personnel system that would eliminate pay errors. Interagency squabbles and demands for thousands of changes eventually sank it.
The Air Force’s Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System was supposed to take over the Air Force’s basic accounting functions in 2010. To date, $466 million has been spent on DEAMS, with a projected total cost of $1.77 billion to build and operate it, an Air Force spokeswoman said. The system lacks ‘critical functional capabilities,’ and its ‘data lacks validity and reliability,’ according to a… Defense Department inspector general report….
In 2000, the Navy began work on four separate projects to handle finances, supplies, maintenance of equipment and contracting. Instead, the systems took on overlapping duties that each performed in different ways, using different formats for the same data. Five years later, the GAO said: ‘These efforts were failures.… $1 billion was largely wasted.’
Now in use, the Navy ERP relies on data fed to it from 44 old systems it was meant to replace. ‘Navy officials spent $870 million… and still did not correct’ the system’s inability to account for $416 billion in equipment, the Pentagon inspector general said in a July 2013 report.
… the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that while the Defense Department was spending ‘in excess of $10 billion per year on business systems modernization and maintenance, overall the result is close to business as usual.'”
Now, six years after that report, “business as usual” continues apace. National Security analyst Winslow T. Wheeler summed up the ongoing accounting crisis at the Pentagon by saying:
“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….
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.”
Another major problem briefly highlighted in the Reuters investigation — concerning trillions of tax dollars in Pentagon contracts — has also become worse since they reported on it. Here’s what Reuters reported:
“Over the past 10 years, the Defense Department has signed contracts for the provision of more than $3 trillion in goods and services. How much of that money is wasted in overpayments to contractors, or was never spent and never remitted to the Treasury, is a mystery.
That’s because of a massive backlog of ‘closeouts’ – audits meant to ensure that a contract was fulfilled and the money ended up in the right place….
It’s the Defense Contract Audit Agency that handles closeouts for department-wide contracts that pay the company or individual for expenses incurred. At the end of fiscal 2011, the agency’s backlog totaled 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion, according to DCAA figures. Some of them date as far back as 1996.
The individual military services close out their own contracts, and the backlogs have piled up there, too. The Army’s backlog was 450,000 contracts, the GAO said in a December 2012 report.
‘This backlog represents hundreds of billions of dollars in unsettled costs,’ the GAO report said.
Timely closeouts also reduce the government’s financial risk by avoiding interest on late payments to contractors. To trim its backlog, the DCAA last year raised to $250 million from $15 million the threshold value at which a contract is automatically audited… hundreds of thousands of contracts that would eventually have been audited now won’t be.
‘Having billions of dollars of open, unaudited contracts stretching back to the 1990s is clearly unacceptable, and places taxpayer dollars at risk of misuse and mismanagement,’ Senator Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an email response to questions.…
Spotty monitoring of contracts is one reason Pentagon personnel and contractors are able to siphon off taxpayer dollars through fraud and theft – amounting to billions of dollars in losses, according to numerous GAO reports….”
Once again, since the Reuters report, the critical problems with unaudited Pentagon contracts have become worse. A recent Army investigation into the corrupt handling of contracts recommend that the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), who oversees $5 trillion worth of contracts, no longer be able to issue contracts. As POGO reported:
“The Pentagon relies on the obscure Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) to negotiate and administer $5 trillion in contracts across the Defense Department as an average of $455 million in taxpayer dollars are paid out each day to contractors.
How well that agency does its job directly affects both how wisely taxpayer dollars are spent and whether our troops get what they need when they need it. Yet the cascading series of major, systemic failures within the agency, which has nearly 12,000 employees and an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion, led an independent investigator from the Army to go so far as to recommend that it be prohibited from awarding its own contracts in the future.”
As the evidence clearly proves, the critical problems reported on by Reuters in 2013 are more relevant now than ever; with hundreds of severe issues still unresolved. In future reports from this series, I will continue to document many more shocking examples of unaccounted for taxpayer dollars and assets, including weapons. From our nuclear facilities to multi-billion-dollar weapons programs, fraud, waste and corruption are rampant.
As previously revealed, over $20 trillion in unaccounted for spending has been reported by the DOD IG. The more you look into military spending, the crazier it gets. The Pentagon is an abyss with layer after layer of unfolding corruption. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once made clear, the Pentagon is an unaccountable black hole where tax dollars disappear by the trillions. The impact that this has on our overall quality of life and standard of living cannot be overstated.
The evidence is clear; corruption throughout military spending has significantly weakened combat readiness, while diverting trillions of tax dollars away from critical infrastructure and burying our nation in record-breaking debt. As a top National Security priority, Congress must fulfill their Constitutional duty to begin wide-scale investigations into the epidemic of systemic corruption throughout the Pentagon.
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