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Sanders Slams Pentagon After Report Finds Agency Lacks Basic Fraud Avoidance

The agency’s lack of simple fraud prevention exists despite the defense industry being rife with fraud.

Pentagon logo is seen ahead of a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., on October 17, 2023.

Despite being given half of the entire federal government’s discretionary spending each year, the Department of Defense doesn’t take even the most basic steps to avoid and investigate fraud, a new bombshell report finds.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a report commissioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) that the Pentagon — the only federal agency that’s never passed an audit — has repeatedly failed to properly respond to fraud, despite having thousands of fraud cases in recent years, and despite previous fraud prevention recommendations by GAO investigators.

According to interviews with Pentagon officials and analyses of over 4,700 criminal fraud investigations from between 2015 and 2021, the Pentagon fails to employ simple anti-fraud data analytics methods like comparing publicly available data and information to internal intelligence, and in fact regularly doesn’t even pursue publicly available intelligence in cases where it would be necessary.

Practices like creating universal identifiers for data points in order to cross-check information between cases are absent, while the GAO found many cases in which data is left incomplete, with fields in case files often left blank.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department also doesn’t specify which entity within the agency is responsible for overseeing fraud cases or who is responsible for carrying out data analytics responsibilities. Further, the investigation found, the Pentagon doesn’t set timelines for case analyses.

This lack of fraud prevention exists despite the fact that the Pentagon is allocated more discretionary funding than every other agency combined, with roughly half of that budget going toward private contracting contracts — an area that previous reports have found is full of fraud and price gouging. The Pentagon spent $414.5 billion on private contracting in FY 2022, representing 60 percent of the funds spent by all agencies on contracting that year.

Sanders says that the report’s findings are “absolutely unacceptable,” with likely billions of taxpayer dollars being misused and involved in fraud — all to fund a military apparatus that regularly carries out horrible atrocities across the world.

“America’s national priorities are badly misplaced,” said Sanders. “We apparently have unlimited amounts of money to spend on the military industrial complex despite the decades of absurd waste, fraud, and financial mismanagement by the Pentagon. But somehow, we can’t summon the resources to provide for the basic needs of the American people. That is absolutely unacceptable.”

Sanders called for Congress to take action to hold the Pentagon accountable. He has previously introduced bills to force the Pentagon to pass an audit, threatening to cut the agency’s budget if they fail to do so.

The defense contracting industry is rife with fraud, and previous Pentagon reports have found that, between 2013 and 2017, the agency entered into over 15 million contracts with contractors who had been indicted with or convicted of fraud, with the contracts’ value totalling over $334 billion.

Agency insiders have said that defense contractors’ price gouging of the government is brazen and open, with defense contractors overcharging the Pentagon regularly with little to no consequences.

Moreover, the Pentagon regularly fails to pass its audits, despite federal requirements for agencies to do so. Last year, the Pentagon failed its sixth annual audit in a row, failing to account for 63 percent of the nearly $4 trillion it has in assets.

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