Analysts: Pentagon's 'Lost' Equipment Fiasco Will Worsen as US Funnels Arms to Ukraine Without Audit
17:39 GMT 19.01.2023 (Updated: 18:06 GMT 19.01.2023)
After Republicans narrowly retook the US House in the November midterm elections, some pledged to audit the US' massive volume of aid being given to Ukraine. However, even among conservatives, the idea is unpopular. According to two ex-US military experts, there are many reasons for the US government to avoid such accounting.
A new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) blasted the Pentagon for losing track of $220 billion in equipment provided to government contractors.
According to the report
, the GAO first raised the issue with the Defense Department in 2001, and it has consistently refused to tackle the problem and ignored the auditor’s recommendations.
The news comes after the Pentagon failed its fifth straight audit by a department inspector general in November 2022. The devastating report
found the DoD could only account for 39% of its $3.5 trillion in assets - including the $220 billion lent to private contracting companies highlighted by the GAO on Thursday.
Retired US Air Force Lt. Col Karen Kwiatkowski, a former senior Pentagon analyst, told Sputnik on Thursday that the NATO alliance has been no better at tracking equipment or supplies going to Ukraine, and that the billions being poured into supporting Kiev’s war effort by Washington would only ensure the problem gets worse.
“Ukraine has served as a Western money laundering facility - which is to say that financial transactions were not closely monitored by design. It is now a war-torn region with limited government controls in place. With reports of US soldiers on the ground in training capacity for some of the missile defense systems being given to Ukraine, we may be hearing more reports of the lack of accountability of Western arms and aid,” she said.
Kwiatkowski called it “a testament to the arrogance and tone-deafness of a very aggressive US political structure” that some in the Biden administration have said they see the conflict in Ukraine as a “testing ground” for new Western weaponry.
“There is no doubt that practicing war in another country with the idea of testing both your weapons and various field applications of them, in a real combat scenario, against a real ‘enemy’ army, is part and parcel of the justifications for this massive and rapid aid to a losing cause,” she said, adding that the “losing cause” was a fully reconstituted Ukraine, “which at this point is accepted by the Pentagon as impossible.”
“The messaging [from the Biden administration] now has to be ‘what else’ do we gain from this weapons flow and continuation of a losing war? Part of the ‘what else’ is, as has been stated publicly, an agenda of weakening Russia through resource exhaustion and economic isolation, and part of it is to gather data on weapons usage and performance in the field,” she noted. “The other aspect for the US is to drain inventories to secure future budgets long after Ukraine is finished.”
Kwiatkowski noted that unlike the US-backed Afghan government during Washington’s 20-year occupation war in Afghanistan, the US government “trusts Ukrainian leaders more than it ever trusted Afghan leaders.”
“Cultural differences, religious differences, and a long history of political maneuverings, influence peddling, and relationships between Kiev and Washington, and Kiev and London, have built a criminal enterprise that is quite functional,” she explained. “For the military leadership in the US, the Eastern European arena, crisscrossed by pipelines, waterways, and bordering Russia and Russian allies, is a place that many in the US military leadership have been historically trained to focus on - and it may be also be a case where the three main parts of the Pentagon - Army, Navy and Air Force - are actually competing for future missions.”
Another factor is that senior Biden administration figures, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, have direct connections to the defense contractors profiting handsomely off the war or to Ukraine, with Austin having served on the executive board of missile-maker Raytheon.
“During his nomination for Secdef, the Senate waived the rule that required a seven-year gap between any service with a major defense contractor, and Austin was confirmed on a 93-2 vote. This illustrates what drives DC defense,” she said.
“In the case of Austin, clearly an insider from Raytheon is controlling some parts of the Ukraine policy. The revolving door issue impacts all departments of the US government, but Defense Contractors-Media-Pentagon is particularly incestuous and profitable. It is worse than that with the Biden administration, because from Biden on down through State [Department] and CIA and Pentagon, you have dozens of appointees in key departments who have a past and ongoing affiliation with the current government Ukraine, in most cases related to past political interventions, and the expected influence peddling and money laundering.”
Scott Ritter, a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, told Sputnik
that it was unusual the US Congress hasn’t already appointed an inspector general to audit military aid being sent to Ukraine, as it did for the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“The thing about the US military is that unless it is told explicitly by Congress that it has to do something, then it won’t do it,” he said.
The issue has been pursued since last May by lawmakers like US Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), without much support. However, by now, with nearly $100 billion given to Ukraine without special monitoring, the damage has largely been done.
“Trying to backtrack and figure out how tens of billions of dollars were spent is ‘mission impossible,’” Ritter said. “Even with all the proper mechanisms in place, it’s very difficult to fully monitor how funds are being used in a conflict zone as heated as the one in Ukraine.”
Ritter suggested that the lack of an audit was intended to avoid the sticky question of just how effective Western weapons are on the battlefield.
“From a political standpoint, you don’t want to show the American policy that the biggest end result of your policy is massive Ukrainian graves,” he said.