Thursday, March 10, 2011

They’re No Good At Accounting Either

Here’s the good news. All this talk about spending cuts and deficit reduction might be opening people’s eyes to the big, fat, bloated, stinking, shitting, $700 billion dollar a year pig in the middle of the room, defense spending.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed.

The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program.

Hurray! So rather than beating up on public service workers and grinding down what’s left of the middle class, let’s start cutting the fat from the Pentagon first. It’s really not that complicated, is it?

Uh, well, here’s the bad news. We’re not really sure what or where the fat is:

Treasury assistant secretary Richard Gregg told a Congressional panel there were “serious financial reporting issues” at the Pentagon, which in the current proposed budget before the Congress receives $553 billion, or some 15% of all US annual spending.

The remarks came after the US government watchdog the General Accounting Office (GAO) named problematic defense accounting standards as the primary reason it could not produce a full assessment of government spending in fiscal 2010.

The GAO cited “serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DoD) that have prevented DoD’s financial statements from being auditable.”

Gregg said that Treasury, Defense, the GAO and the White House budget office have agreed a strategy to resolve some of DoD’s “more significant accounting and audit weaknesses.”

The GAO report on fiscal 2010, released in December, said the auditor had no way of being sure if the defense department had the assets it recorded and whether they were in the condition claimed.

“As in past years, DoD did not maintain adequate systems or have sufficient records to provide reliable information on these assets,” it said.

They can’t win wars and they can’t manage the books. Sounds like a wasteful public agency to me. Sounds like there are a whole lot of incompetent service workers sucking off the public tit here. Not as bad as kindergarten teachers in Wisconsin, mind you, but still pretty bad — after all, most Pentagon employees are loyal Americans devoted to the defense of our country, whereas teachers usually vote democratic and listen to NPR.

Well, “problematic accounting standards” work just dandy for Wall Street. Why not use them at the Pentagon as well?

Bottom line, don’t expect ‘significant’ cuts in defense any time soon.

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