Pentagon Doesn’t Know Expense of Employee Conferences

Perhaps the Pentagon can start a new series of conferences on how to keep track of expenses for employee conferences.

pentagon cash shredder

Posting on the Pentagon and budget misfeasance (or malfeasance?) is so easy it is almost embarrassing. To quote P. J. O’Rourke from a completely different context, it is almost like hunting dairy cattle with a high-powered rifle and scope. The Defense Department sends out experts on specific operations who don’t even know how much they cost, they spend vast sums hauling useless trucks from one side of the planet to the other, while they insist on cutting troop benefits for the sake of alleged “preparedness.” Remember, if the Pentagon was a private corporation, the IRS would have jailed the CFO a long time ago.

Of course, one reason the Pentagon can get away with such irresponsible (and arguably corrupt and criminal) behavior is because they actually serve a real purpose: we need to be protected from foreign enemies. But what this essentially means is that we are held hostage by the Defense Department. We have to pay out unaccountable Trillions to them (Yes, by their own admission, they have lost that much above and beyond all the wasteful spending that was recorded), and they do nothing to improve our security. Arguably, we have paid them to make the world a more dangerous place.

And we have paid them to hold employee conferences.

Sarah Westwood has the story at the Washington Examiner: “Defense Department has no idea how much it spends on employee conferences.”

The Department of Defense inspector general reviewed eight conferences that together cost $2 million from the final quarter of 2013 and found mistakes in more than half of the events it reviewed.

In all, the Pentagon said it spent $20.1 million on 80 conferences in 2013. Actually, there may have been more than 80 conferences and the costs could well exceed $20.1 million because the DOD office collecting the data didn’t double-check the accuracy of the numbers it was given.


A 2013 law compels federal agencies to report all conferences that cost $100,000 or more to their inspectors general. Defense officials implemented another set of agency rules that allowed some types of events, such as operational exercises or international cooperation engagements, to be exempted from conference reporting requirements.

Some of the inconsistencies in the conference report stemmed from the Pentagon’s tendency to check whether such exemptions applied to reported events on a “case-by-case basis,” the IG said.

What’s more, Pentagon offices “were not required to report actual expenses or submit documentation of actual conference costs” under agency rules, according to the report.

I know that a few tens of millions of dollars seems like something the Pentagon could find under their sofa cushions, given the level of spending they have become accustomed to. But as much as national security is a real need, lavish employee conferences are not an essential need.