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Opinion: Require financial training at military academies, to combat waste, fraud and abuse


With a budget of over $700 billion of taxpayer money headed out the door by the end of FY 2021, the Pentagon is number one in discretionary spending in the federal government. That number one status is, of course, perennial. And for decades, lawmakers and auditors have tried to get a clear accounting of how it’s all spent.  

But, as a new opinion piece (co-authored by a former U.S. Comptroller General) published in GovExec points out, the Government Accountability Office routinely begs off on analyzing many areas of DOD waste because auditors cannot rely on financial figures submitted by the military and civilian leaders who report spending. In short, each year the GAO is forced to issue a disclaimer—effectively saying it cannot vouch for accuracy—on parts of its consolidated review of Pentagon finances, limiting the audit’s usefulness. 

The authors argue the solution is to stop repeatedly banging up against a wall of untrustworthy numbers, and simply make a basic education in economics and accounting mandatory—for all who handle and document DOD spending at any level of leadership at all. 

Every one of the military’s service academies—such as West Point and the Air Force Academy—would be required to develop and impose a minimum standard course that includes microeconomics, macroeconomics as well as accounting and other key subjects. Cadets, midshipmen, airmen, all service academy students, would have to pass the course to graduate. 

After all, the authors note, everyone who attends a service academy is a likely leader and steward of DOD resources, human and financial, who will file reports on the use of those resources. The upgraded requirement would enhance economic literacy, accuracy in reporting and respect for civilian and military leaders who rely on their accounting—enabling clearer GAO audits, and the finding and tackling of waste and abuse. 

2021 Digital Almanac

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