Jim Minnery, an accountant in Ohio who works for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, said few people understand the enormity of the task.
A central problem is that the Pentagon
didn't document what its assets were worth before Congress decided in the early 1990s to get serious about federal spending accountability, he
wasn't in the business of making money, so they never needed an income statement," Minnery
said."They expensed their assets like planes and buildings and such. ...They dished money out, and they never kept track of what they owned."
When forced to put together a financial statement, the agency had to try to assign a value to everything, new and used, on its bases and inside its offices, storage rooms and arsenals.
"That's one of the main reasons I don't believe they'll ever have a clean (audit)," said Minnery
, whose complaints about missing money in 2002 earned him a label as a whistleblower.
Even basic accounting procedures fail.Minnery
said some systems make it impossible to match checks that have been written to the bills that were being paid.
"Their systems can't keep track of who they've sold stuff to, who owes them, who they owe," he
Another factor that has evolved over the decades is a decentralized system that records the same part with a multitude of different multicharacter codes, and difficulties ensue with any cross-service transaction because their ordering codes differ as well.
"The Navy has a set (of codes), the Army has a set, the Air Force has a set," Minnery