National debt is ‘unsustainable’ and Pentagon finances are a total mess, says federal audit

The federal government’s books are in such bad shape that auditors can’t even do their job, and the national debt is growing at an “unsustainable” rate, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has warned in its comprehensive annual review of financial statements. of the government. .

The GAO has singled out the Pentagon — as it has done every year since 1990, when federal auditors began trying to peer into the military spending black hole — for “serious financial management issues.” This includes more than 1,300 new issues raised during this year’s incomplete audit of the Department of Defense. Despite these ongoing financial problems, the Pentagon has seen its spending increase dramatically under the Trump administration.

Of the 24 federal departments and agencies subject to annual audits under a 1990 law, only the Pentagon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development failed to gain unequivocal scrutiny this year. Note that a clean review does not mean that there were no unnecessary expenses, just that the auditors were at least able to see where the expenses were going.

“Resolving the issues described in our audit report is of the utmost importance given the federal government’s announced fiscal trajectory,” Gene L. Dodaro, U.S. Comptroller General and Head of GAO, wrote in a statement. letter to Congress and President Donald Trump. “Absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal trajectory.”

Measured as a share of the entire US economy, the national debt has doubled in just 12 years and is on track to reach historic highs over the next decade. The federal government’s budget deficit, that is, the gap between the revenue it generates and the money it spends, is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year.

“While the estimated magnitude of the fiscal gap is subject to great uncertainty, it is nonetheless almost certain that current fiscal policies cannot be sustained indefinitely,” the GAO report concludes. The sooner deficit and debt growth can be slowed or reversed, the less likely these policies are to affect economic growth.

But is anyone listening? Lawmakers from both major parties have worked together in recent years to pass budgets that have skyrocketed annual deficits and increased debt. The Democrats running for president promise to increase federal spending by billions of dollars to pay for free college, government-run health care and the fight against climate change – and even though they also promise to increase taxes, the calculation adds nothing on top. This means that deficits will continue to grow. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism, and most of his party have followed suit.

But the report is just there for them to see. When the fiscal recklessness of the past decade hits the fan, they won’t be able to pretend no one saw it coming.

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