Corker: Why can the Pentagon 'turn entire countries into craters' but not audit itself?

Corker: Why can the Pentagon 'turn entire countries into craters' but not audit itself?
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday questioned why the Department of Defense (DOD) can “turn entire countries into craters” yet has been unable to undergo an audit until this year.

“We all watch us kill people remotely in Mosul and other places with people from far away commanding drones, and it’s just remarkable that we’re able to do things like that. DOD has the capacity to turn entire countries into craters, has all kind of cyber capabilities,” Corker said during a Senate Budget Committee hearing.

“How in the world is it in 2018 with all the massive capabilities that the Pentagon has that this is the first time the Pentagon is able to conduct an audit," he said. "What is going on with the culture at the Pentagon?”

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Corker, a deficit hawk, was grilling Pentagon comptroller David Norquist at a hearing discussing the Pentagon’s first full audit.

In response to Corker’s question, Norquist said he shared Corker's concern and started to talk about how the Trump administration “made starting the audit right away critical.”

A frustrated Corker interjected: “Just what’s going on with the culture. How in the world could it be that the biggest, greatest fighting entity in the world cannot audit itself until 2018? What’s wrong?”

Norquist responded that the Pentagon’s focus was not on the back office, but that Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Pentagon seeks to reconsider parts of B cloud contract given to Microsoft over Amazon Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters MORE is changing that.

“There is a sense on some of the mission focus are not as focused on the back office as you would see in a private company,” Norquist said. “I think that there’s an essential value to the taxpayer in making sure the rest of operations go well. And part of the messaging that the secretary has made internally is to make sure folks understand this is much broader than just financial management. If you want to make sure that your inventory of spare parts is correct, if your munitions is correct, this is part of what the audit covers.”

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Norquist also credited pressure from Congress with helping change the culture at the Pentagon, to which Corker replied, “I don’t care about Congress.”

“The fact is we’ve probably wasted hundreds of billions of dollars at the Pentagon through the years through poor management,” Corker continued. “That’d be a low estimate, wouldn’t it?”

Norquist said he could not speak to that number.

In December, the Pentagon launched the first full-scale audit in its history, a congressionally mandated undertaking that officials have hailed as a sign of their commitment to spending their multibillion-dollar budget wisely.

Wednesday’s hearing was called after Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine MORE (R-Wyo.) questioned the Pentagon last month on the costs and timeline of the audit. Norquist has said the audit would cost $367 million in fiscal 2018 and an additional $551 million to fix identified problems.