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Zakheim Seeks To Corral, Reconcile 'Lost' Spending

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2002 – As part of military transformation efforts, DoD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim and his posse of accountants are riding the Pentagon's financial paper trail, seeking to corral billions of dollars in so-called "lost" expenditures.

For years, DoD and congressional officials have sought to reconcile defense financial documents to determine where billions in expenditures have gone. That money didn't fall down a hole, but is simply waiting to be accounted for, Zakheim said in a Feb. 14 interview with the American Forces Information Service. Complicating matters, he said, is that DoD has 674 different computerized accounting, logistics and personnel systems.

Most of the 674 systems "don't talk to one another unless somebody 'translates,'" he remarked. This situation, he added, makes it hard to reconcile financial data.

Billions of dollars of DoD taxpayer-provided money haven't disappeared, Zakheim said. "Missing" expenditures are often reconciled a bit later in the same way people balance their checkbooks every month. The bank closes out a month and sends its bank statement, he said. In the meanwhile, people write more checks, and so they have to reconcile their checkbook register and the statement.

DoD financial experts, Zakheim said, are making good progress reconciling the department's "lost" expenditures, trimming them from a prior estimated total of $2.3 trillion to $700 billion. And, he added, the amount continues to drop.

"We're getting it down and we are redesigning our systems so we'll go down from 600-odd systems to maybe 50," he explained.

"That way, we will give people not so much more money, but a comfort factor, to be sure that every last taxpayer penny is accounted for," he concluded.

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