Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the Pentagon managed to rack up over $35 trillion in accounting changes last year, a figure that is a significant uptick from the 2018 estimate of $30.7 trillion and reported total of $29 trillion in 2017.
“Within that $30 trillion is a lot of double, triple and quadruple counting of the same money as it got moved between accounts,” Pentagon budget expert Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, citing figures provided by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), noted that there were a total of 562,568 accounting changes made in fiscal 2018 and 546,433 adjustments for the prior year.
Speir told the outlet that the “combined errors, shorthand and sloppy record-keeping by DoD accountants do add up to a number nearly 1.5 times the size of the US economy.”
She asserted the Department of Defense “employs accounting adjustments like a contractor paints over mold. Their priority is making the situation look manageable, not solving the underlying problem.”
This estimate is just the latest in a series of questionable financial results coming out of the Department of Defense. It was announced in November that the Pentagon failed its financial audit for the second consecutive year. The audit, which tracked the spending of over $2.9 trillion in Pentagon-owned and managed assets, detected a total of 25 “material weaknesses.”
Pentagon Deputy Chief Financial Officer Mark Easton told the Government Accountability Office’s audit department that the Department of Defense would be “actively developing strategies” to reduce accounting adjustments, according to Bloomberg.
Likewise, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood defended his department, noting that, “annually, DoD has hundreds of billions of dollars of financial activity, and accounting adjustments are sometimes used to record activity in our financial reporting systems due to a lack of system capabilities or interfaces.”