The Pentagon may be worse at managing money than an E-3 just back from deployment


The Pentagon moved a total of $35 trillion among its various budget accounts in 2019, Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg first reported.

That does not mean that the Defense Department spent, lost, or could not account for $35 trillion, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank in Washington, D.C.

"It means money that DoD moved from one part of the budget to another," Clark explained to Task & Purpose. "So, like in your household budget: It would be like moving money from checking, to savings, to your 401K, to your credit card, and then back."

However, $35 trillion is close to 50-times the size of the Pentagon's 2019 budget, so that means every dollar the Defense Department received from Congress was moved up to 50 times before it was actually spent, Clark said.

While it's not illegal for the Pentagon to move money so often among different budget accounts, it does show that defense leaders are doing a poor job planning how they will spend their funds for the year, he said.

"And it means that you're probably spending a lot of time moving money around instead of actually getting the work done," Clark said.

Another issue is whether the Defense Department is spending its money the way Congress envisioned it would, he said. Each budget category is so broadly defined that the Pentagon could use money slated for research and development to fund manpower costs if it wanted to.

"If DoD is moving money around to this degree, that means it's unlikely that Congress' intention is being followed to the letter," Clark said. "It means there's a lot of money moving between accounts that may not be exactly where Congress wanted to put the money in the first place."

It also means that the Defense Department really sucks at accounting, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

The Pentagon's accounting systems are so old and out of date that defense officials don't even put up a fight when the Treasury Department says they've made errors, explained Kristen Kociolek, who led the GAO's review of the issue.

Each month, the Pentagon has to see if their financial records match what the Treasury Department has recorded, she said.

"What we were finding is the Department of Defense has such lack of confidence or unreliability in their own records that they on a routine basis …. pretty much delete everything that had been recorded on their side and just re-record all the balances that Treasury has," Kociolek said. "That's creating a lot of volume of accounting adjustments."

"It would be like if you thought you had $500 but you got your bank statement and it said you had $400, you'd go with the $400 without investigating it," she continued. "Nobody does that."

Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood referred questions about the Pentagon's accounting system to the GAO report, in which the Pentagon's deputy chief financial officer vowed to fix the issues raised.

"The Department is actively developing strategies to reduce accounting adjustments," Mark Easton wrote in a Dec. 5 response to the GAO. "Subsequently, the Department will update the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation and document strategies with specific outcomes and detailed procedures for achieving stated goals in the strategies."

Army recruiters hold a swearing-in ceremony for over 40 of Arkansas' Future Soldiers at the Arkansas State Capital Building. (U.S. Army/Amber Osei)

Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.

"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

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In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.

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A U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk crew chief with the New Jersey National Guard's 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion stands for a portrait at the Army Aviation Support Facility on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Feb. 3, 2020 (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.

Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.

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A screen grab from a YouTube video shows Marines being arrested during formation at Camp Pendleton in July, 2019. (Screen capture)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.

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