Mattis Vows to ‘Clean Up’ Problems Found in Pentagon Audit

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the Pentagon, Friday, April 13, 2018, on the U.S. military response, along with France and Britain, to Syria's chemical weapon attack on April 7.​ (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday vowed to clean up problems found by the Pentagon’s first building-wide audit.

“We’ve got this big, full-scale audit. It’s an army of auditors going through and taking our programs apart. And — I just sent a note out to everybody. I just said, ‘We’re going to invite the scrutiny. We’re going to find the problems,'” he told reporters traveling with him.

“We are going to clean up every problem that they find,” he said, adding that it is necessary to maintaining bipartisan support for defense spending.

Last year, Congress approved a plan that increased Pentagon spending by ten percent from the prior year, amounting to $716 billion for 2018 and $700 billion for 2019.

Fiscal conservatives and progressives alike were disturbed by those figures, and President Donald Trump himself seemed uncomfortable with it. However, Mattis made the case to the president that it was necessary to restore and strengthen the military after years of defense budget cuts.

The defense budget faced steep cuts in 2013 after the 2011 Budget Control Act mandated $500 billion in defense budget cuts over ten years, on top of an already-planned $487 billion over that same period.

Although each year since 2013, Congress has been able to prevent some of the cuts, the U.S. military still faced steep reductions in training, maintenance, and troop numbers.

Mattis promised not to squander the increase in defense spending.

“When you look at the size of that omnibus spending bill, and the amount of trust that they must have up there, that we’re not going to misspend it,” he said.

In a memo sent to Pentagon employees on May 26, he said, “every decision we make must focus on both lethality and affordability, thereby gaining full value from each taxpayer dollar spent on defense.”

“Each of us, at every level within the Department, are accountable to the American public. We are responsible for taking immediate corrective action when a discrepancy is uncovered, and to develop a plan of action and associated milestones for the longer term,” he wrote.

He said the annual results on Pentagon would be published in November and that it could take “years” to achieve a clean audit.

“While a clean audit may take years to achieve, your efforts and your leadership foster transparency, accountability, and business process reform, enabling us to meet our fundamental obligation to turn over this Department better than we found it,” he wrote.

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