Senators urge Pentagon to continue its internal audit

Feb. 1 (UPI) — Twenty-six members of the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committee have urged the Pentagon to complete its audit.

In a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the bipartisan signatories expressed concern that the audit will be delayed or compromisedafter its leader, Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist, was elevated to acting deputy defense secretary.

Norquist acquired the new responsibilities after Patrick Shanahan, the former occupant of the position, was moved up to acting defense secretary after Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned.

The legislators who signed the letter, dated Wednesday, led by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, expressed concern that Norquist’s dual positions could divert his attention from overseeing the audit at a time when the Defense Department has no permanent leader.

“In addition to that critical responsibility, Mr. Norquist also began performing the duties of Deputy Secretary of Defense on Jan. 1, 2019,” the letter reads in part. “Given the vast duties of the Deputy Secretary of Defense role, including managing the Pentagon’s day-to-day business, it is important that the responsibility of overseeing the DoD audit is not in any way neglected.”

In 2018, the Pentagon completed its first department-wide financial audit, although a 1990 law calls for an audit annually. The Defense Department missed a January 2019 deadline to brief Congress on any potential problems uncovered by the audit.

The audit has already uncovered deficiencies within the Pentagon it says will cost $560 million to fix, and found that $28 billion in available funds went unspent at the end of 2018.

The 2018 audit involved 21 categories within the Defense Department, with only five receiving what could be considered a passing grade. However, since the audit was a massive and unprecedented effort, Pentagon officials did not know what to expect, except that a clean report of excellence and full accountability was not anticipated.

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