Marine Corps Becomes First US Military Branch to Pass Full Audit

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
February 26, 2024US News
Marine Corps Becomes First US Military Branch to Pass Full Audit
Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge haul a rope as the vessel secures lines with the supply ship USNS William McLean as it starts to refuel, resupply and take on humanitarian relief aid in the Caribbean Sea on Sept. 20, 2017. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

The U.S. Marine Corps just completed its first successful audit, making it the first U.S. military branch to successfully account for its assets.

On Friday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the Marine Corps earned an “unmodified opinion,” meaning the service had provided auditors with sufficient and appropriate evidence to account for $46.3 billion in assets.

The audit was conducted by independent accountants with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) in accordance with accounting principles accepted throughout the United States. EY accountants, working under the supervision of the DOD inspector general’s office, visited more than 70 Marine Corps installations, assessed more than 25 million sample items, and reviewed more than 3,000 documents.

The successful audit opinion was the culmination of a two-year effort to account for the Marine Corps’s past balances and current-year financial transactions.

“This audit reflects the hard work of hundreds of Marines and civilians,” Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, said of the successful audit opinion. “They have put an incredible amount of effort into some groundbreaking work.”

The Marine Corps’s successful audit report comes as the other military branches and the DOD at large are still struggling to properly account for their assets.

In November, the DOD announced it had completed its sixth consecutive audit without sufficiently accounting for its assets. The DOD-wide audit included 29 sub-audits, all of which must pass for the department-wide effort to be considered a success. Only seven of the 29 sub-audits returned sufficient information in the last two department-wide audit efforts. In total, the department identified $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities.

The Marine Corps previously became the first U.S. military branch to conduct a full financial audit, earning that distinction in 2017. The branch has continued to run ahead of the rest of the military in terms of its accounting efforts.

Upon announcing the DOD’s sixth failed audit in November, Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord said the DOD and the larger military branches like the Army, Navy, and Air Force were “very focused” on seeing the results of the Marine Corps’s two-year audit effort, and looked forward to those findings “as a test case” for the other military components going forward.

Marine Corps leaders had made it a goal to become the first branch to pass a successful audit, both in hopes of reflecting meritoriously on the branch and in hopes of paving the way for the other military branches and the DOD as a whole.

“Now, we can take what we’ve learned and share across the DoD enterprise to improve fiscal processes for all the military services,” Gen. Mahoney said on Friday, following the successful audit report.

In addition to working on an expanded audit timeline, the Marine Corps audit also employed the Defense Agencies Initiative (DAI) portal, a new resource for military budgeting and financial planning.

Pressure Mounts for Further Pentagon Accountability

Pressure is growing for the DOD to improve its accounting practices as the overall U.S. defense budget continues to grow.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024 NDAA) brought the total U.S. defense budget to $886.3 billion, including $841.5 billion for the DOD, more than $32 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and more than $12 billion in defense-related allocations for various other federal agencies.

Last June, the DOD announced it had overcounted the value of military assistance to Ukraine over the prior two years to the tune of $6.2 billion. According to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, the accounting error arose because U.S. military officials didn’t account for the value of items it drew from existing U.S. weapons stockpiles and sent to Ukraine and instead tracked its expenses by the cost to replace those weapons.

A January report by the DOD inspector general’s office concluded the department has fallen short of its end-use monitoring standards when providing military assistance to Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee announced it is continuing to investigate how U.S. funds for Ukraine are being handled.

“It is vital that DOD works to ensure weapons and other forms of security assistance are used for their intended purposes, that they do not fall into the hands of our enemies, and that the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse is mitigated,” the Republican-led committee announced, in a Feb. 6 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “The Committee is seeking further documents and information to understand how DOD intends to ensure adequate oversight of defense articles for Ukraine in light of a recent Inspector General report casting doubt on DOD’s prior assurances to the Committee.”

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