The Mystery of Sept. 10, 2001: The Pentagon’s Missing $2.3 Trillion

The author reports that on September 10, 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld promised to eradicate what he called “a matter of life and death” at the Pentagon, meaning billions of dollars of wasteful spending. Unfortunately, on the next day, the 9/11 attacks diverted attention away from Rumsfeld’s declaration. The Department of Defense lost track of $2.3 trillion due to outdated technology and flawed bookkeeping. Rumsfeld compared Pentagon bureaucratic processes to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. He pledged to revolutionize Pentagon accounting and created a Defense Business Board to advise the DoD on financial matters. However, it was reported that the Pentagon’s accounting systems failed an internal audit for the sixth year in a row. It was also found that the Pentagon spent over $56 billion on payroll in 2022 and had 24 employees earning salaries of at least $300,000. This ongoing finance issue at the Department of Defense has persisted despite Rumsfeld’s initial efforts.