Pentagon Fails First-Ever Audit

‘An Insult to the American People’: Outrage After Pentagon Fails First-Ever Audit

After years of empty promises and demands from frustrated members of Congress, the Pentagon finally conducted its first-ever comprehensive audit—and unsurprisingly failed it, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan revealed Thursday.

“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a press briefing. While expressing irritation with the poor money management, he added, “it was an audit on a $2.7 trillion dollar organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial.”

Although a 1990 federal law requires all U.S. government agencies to conduct annual financial audits, the Pentagon put it off until launching this one last December. Critics of the United States’ astronomical military spending said the findings were precisely why lawmakers and the public have demanded Defense Department audits for decades.

“This is exactly why we must AuditThePentagon,” tweeted Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). “The unchecked waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon is an insult to the American people.”

“The simple truth is that the Pentagon is an atrocious steward of the hundreds of billions of dollars taxpayers give them every year,” Win Without War director Stephen Miles told Common Dreams.

“Whether it is massively overpaying for spare parts, mismanaging large weapons programs, or failing at the basics business of doing business, this audit confirms that the Pentagon is in dire need of reform,” he added. “Throwing endless money at the Pentagon is what has created these problems, and the solution rests in finally tightening the world’s largest bureaucracy’s fiscal belt.”

Even while members of Congress have called for audits, they’ve passed bipartisan bills doling out billions of taxpayer dollars to the department. The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, passed by lawmakers earlier this year allocated $717 billion to military spending, the bulk of which goes to the Pentagon.

Millions of dollars have gone into the audit process, and millions more will be spent to fix the issues it identified, according to Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist. He told lawmakers earlier this year that it cost $367 million to conduct the review, and it will take another $551 million to resolve the problems the some 1,200 auditors found.

The audit findings come as a new report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute estimated that the since 2001, the so-called War on Terror has cost the United States a “staggering” $5.9 trillion.


Trump says he won’t sign Senate deal to avert shutdown, demands funds for border security

President Trump threatened Thursday to veto a stopgap spending bill unless it includes billions of dollars to build a wall along the border with Mexico, sending large parts of the federal government lurching toward a shutdown starting Saturday.

His comments came after an emergency meeting with House Republican leaders, where Trump revealed he would reject a measure passed in the Senate the night before. That measure would fund many government agencies through Feb. 8, but it would not include any new money for Trump’s border wall.

“I’ve made my position very clear. Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said in an event at the White House. He added, “Walls work, whether we like it or not. They work better than anything.”

Trump’s comments on Thursday completely overturned the plan GOP leaders were patching together earlier in the day. With no other viable options available, they had hoped to pass the short-term spending bill approved by the Senate, averting a government shutdown set to start days before Christmas.

Many lawmakers had expected Trump to grudgingly accept the stopgap measure with Republicans about to lose their majority in the House, and his rejection set off a chaotic day in the Capitol.

House Republican leaders hurried to appease the president, pulling together a bill that would keep the government funded through Feb. 8 while also allocating $5.7 billion for the border wall. The House bill also included nearly $8 billion for disaster relief for hurricanes and wildfires.

The legislation passed the House on a near-party-line vote of 217 to 185 Thursday night, over strident objections from Democrats who criticized the wall as immoral and ineffective and declared the legislation dead on arrival in the Senate. No Democrats voted for the House measure, and eight Republicans voted against it.

But barely 24 hours away from a shutdown set to start at the end of Friday, the House vote only hardened Washington’s budget impasse: Democrats have the Senate votes to block any bill that includes funding for Trump’s wall, and Trump says he’ll veto any bill that doesn’t.

The chances of a shutdown are “certainly higher than they were this morning,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said after Thursday night’s House vote.

Funding for roughly 25 percent of the federal agencies whose budgets rely on Congress will expire at the end of Friday. The agencies affected deal with homeland security, law enforcement, national parks, transportation and housing, among others.

The rest of the government, including the military, would not be affected, as it’s funded through September by bills lawmakers passed earlier this year.

The impacted agencies would continue to perform some of their functions, but more than 100,000 employees are expected to be sent home without pay.

The White House hasn’t yet revealed the full impact of a partial shutdown, as it is up to each agency to implement its own plan. But it is clear the effects would be widespread: Close to 80,000 Internal Revenue Service employees would no longer come into work, and national parks that are locked at night would not reopen in the morning.

It can occasionally take several days for the full impact of a shutdown to kick in, and some agencies could remain open on Saturday but close by Monday.

Numerous agencies would be affected immediately, and some on Thursday seemed unprepared for the brinkmanship.

Officials from the Smithsonian Institution, Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate National Park and Gateway Arch either said they weren’t sure whether they would be open Saturday or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A government shutdown could drag on for days or weeks, as Democrats have shown no willingness to budge from their refusal to finance a wall. Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in early January, giving them even more leverage in negotiations.

As Thursday night wore on, a partial government shutdown began to appear all but inevitable to many on Capitol Hill, though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) insisted that “there’s still plenty of time” to avoid one.

“I think you’ll find that we’ll be able to move forward and make sure we keep the government open,” McCarthy said after returning from the White House. “And also we believe we need border security.”

But the path forward was far from clear, and the 115th Congress threatened to end on a bitter note of dysfunction as House conservatives, who’ve waged numerous futile battles over the years, picked one last fight before sinking into the minority, this time backed up by the president.

Trump is scheduled to leave Friday afternoon for two weeks in Florida, but it was unclear whether he would do so amid a partial government shutdown.

He has repeatedly threatened a government shutdown since taking office, telling advisers it would be good politics for Republicans to demonstrate their resolve in building a border wall.

But many in the party saw it as impractical and have repeatedly worked to persuade the president to keep the government open. Trump was prepared for a shutdown this fall, but GOP leaders, fearful of a government closure weeks before the midterm elections, convinced him to sign legislation extending funding through December — in part by promising to fight for wall money at the next budget deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday warned Republicans they may have to return for a vote Friday. But it’s impossible for McConnell to pass a spending bill without support from Democrats, who have locked arms in opposition to any money for a border wall.

Trump’s opposition to the short-term deal brings him full-circle. Last week, he told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), expected to return as House speaker, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he would be “proud” to shut the government down if he didn’t get the $5 billion for the wall.

On Tuesday, when it became clear that Trump didn’t have enough support in Congress for the $5 billion, the White House began backing down from the ultimatum. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump would find other ways to fund the construction of the wall.

On Wednesday, Trump wrote in a tweet that the military would build it, though a number of budget experts said that would be illegal, as money can’t be redirected without Congress’s approval.

When Trump appeared to be backing down, conservative media outlets and Congress’s most conservative members revolted, demanding the president rethink his decision. By Thursday, Trump was back to demanding his wall and insisting the money come from Congress.

Conservatives including members of the House Freedom Caucus encouraged the president to take a hard-line stance, arguing this was his last opportunity to try to extract any money for the wall.

“We have to fight now or America will never believe we’ll fight,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Republicans at a closed-door meeting Thursday.

“The time to fight is now. I mean, this is stupid,” said Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.).

As GOP leaders moved to adjust to Trump’s shifting stances, Democrats ridiculed the spectacle, even as they repeated promises that they would provide no money for Trump’s wall.

“I don’t know that anyone ever has any assurances from the White House on any subject including this one,” said Pelosi. “We’re right in the middle of a sort of a meltdown on the part of Republicans.”

The construction of a wall along the Mexican border was one of Trump’s top campaign promises in 2016, and he vowed to somehow make Mexico pay for it all. Since he won the election, he has demanded the money come from Congress, seeking between $1.6 billion and $5 billion. At one point, he even insisted Democrats give him $25 billion for the wall.

In tweets early Thursday, Trump had ripped Democrats and promised to fight for wall funding but still appeared ready to sign a measure to keep the government open. He claimed his initiatives to move more agents along the Mexican border had made it “tight” and said he would not support infrastructure legislation next year unless Democrats eventually agree to finance the construction of a wall.

“Remember the Caravans?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Well, they didn’t get through and none are forming or on their way. Border is tight. Fake News silent!”

The government’s Department of Homeland Security painted a much different picture of the situation just a few weeks ago. It reported that the number of people arrested or detained along the Mexico border reached a new high for the Trump presidency in November, as arrests of juveniles and parents with children continued to rise. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained 25,172 members of “family units” in November, the highest number ever recorded.

Last week, Trump said terrorists were crossing the U.S. border and he also offered the unfounded claim that people with contagious diseases were entering the country. At Trump’s meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, the president said he would take responsibility for a government shutdown, upsetting many Republicans who had wanted to blame Democrats for any impasse.

Source: The Washington Post

James Mattis Quotes

Here are some of the most legendary quotes from James Mattis, the four-star Marine general who just resigned as Trump’s Defense Secretary. He served in Trump’s cabinet for the first 2 years of his administration.

And I think, it’s rather scary quotes. Very frightening indeed.

On meeting new people

“Be polite, be professional but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

On collateral damage

“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”

On taking a life

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a**holes in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

Warning US enemies

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But i’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: if you fu** with me, I’ll kill you all.”

On foes opposing the US military

“We’ve backed off in good faith to try and give you a chance to straighten this problem out. But I am going to beg with you for a minute, I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

On failure

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

On the business of war

“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”

On defeating Al Qaeda

“A country that armed Stalin to defeat Hitler can certainly work alongside enemies of Al-Qaeda to defeat Al-Qaeda.”

On using your head

“The most important 6 inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

On presentations

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

On leadership

“If you cannot create harmony – even vicious harmony – on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian / military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete.”

On fighting for democracy

“The the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

On treachery

“Treachery has existed as long as there’s warfare, and there’s always been a few people that you couldn’t trust.”

On thinking things through

“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage you brain before you engage your weapon.”

Well, most of his quotes are terrifying, but as a general that might just what he needed to be, to strike fear into his enemies.