In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon's accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
"We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it," Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. "We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn't even do the audit."
The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.
Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.
Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.
Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.
U.S. Marine Corps
The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there's like less room for error but remember: it's still the top of the bottom of the list.
U.S. Army and U.S. Navy
Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.
U.S. Air Force
It's not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.