Watchdog: Pentagon let nearly $28B in funds expire through 2018

The Pentagon let $27.7 billion in funds expire over the past five years, preventing the military from using such dollars for new projects, according to the Department of Defense and a new government watchdog report.

The Defense Department’s Inspector General's (IG) office noted in a 33-page document released Tuesday that the Pentagon lost out on the funds through fiscal year 2018 because it let authority to use the money expire.

“If the DoD does not spend its funds within the legal timeframes, the funds expire. In FY 2018, the DoD reported $27.7 billion of expired funds, meaning that, generally, the DoD can no longer use those funds for new spending,” the report states.

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Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood clarified in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday that while the expired funds were reported through last year, they represented expired funds that spanned a period of five years, starting in 2013.

"The DoD IG correctly provides in its financial statement audit report that the Department had $28 billion in expired status. The $28 billion spans five years, starting in fiscal 2013. This is less than one percent of the department's budget over that time period," he said.

The information could be used by Democrat lawmakers who have long called for Pentagon dollars to be trimmed to help pay for other domestic priorities. Democrats, who now control the House, have indicated they will seek a smaller defense budget than the $700-750 billion that the Trump administration has said it wants.

The report released Tuesday was a follow-up to the Pentagon’s first ever audit, which discovered the expired funds. The results of that audit were released in November and took nearly a year to complete. Roughly 1,200 auditors from the Pentagon and five independent public accounting firms surveyed the department's $2.7 trillion in assets. 

Acting DOD Inspector General Glenn Fine, who led the audit, said the goal of the undertaking was to “enable Congress and the public to receive a more accurate assessment of how the DoD spends its money; ... prevent wasteful practices; and assist the DoD to improve operational decisions.”

“The road to a clean opinion is not short; it will not happen immediately,” Fine said. “Continued progress requires sustained effort and attention throughout the Department.”

The IG’s office is tasked with reviewing the Pentagon and its use of resources, its handling of top weapons systems such as the F-35, as well as operations overseas. The office’s reports, which are released frequently, are used by Congress and the public to see how well DOD uses tax dollars.

But IG reports do not always show Pentagon operations in favorable light, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpShutdown puts dozens of federal transportation safety probes on hold Howard Schultz advisers exploring possible 2020 independent bid: report Special counsel issues rare statement disputing BuzzFeed's Cohen report MORE last week brought more attention to such offices when he told Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanTrump announces new missile defense plan, chastises allies on spending Pentagon missile defense doctrine to explore space-base tech Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release MORE to stop publicly releasing watchdog reports on the U.S. military. 

“For these reports criticizing every single thing — and even in some cases saying good, perhaps — but for these reports, to give it out, forget about the public, given out to the enemy is insane. And I don’t want that to happen anymore, Mr. Secretary, you understand that,” Trump said.

The president did not make clear whether he was referring to the IG office as a whole or to the separate Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which releases reports that have criticized the use of U.S. funds in Afghanistan.

– This story was updated Jan. 9 at 5:58 p.m. to reflect the Pentagon's statement that the expired funds spanned five years