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Pentagon audit eases Ukraine arms shipments, despite failing grade

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An audit of the Pentagon’s finance systems and weapons stocks has made it easier for President Joe Biden’s administration to locate and ship weapons to Ukraine, even though auditors gave the U.S. Department of Defense a failing grade.

The Pentagon racked up its fifth consecutive annual comprehensive audit failure, with auditors concluding that its internal systems and processes for tracking weapons and finances were still not up to snuff despite some progress, Mike McCord, the department’s chief financial officer, told reporters.

The annual legally required audit assesses the record-keeping processes of the Pentagon’s weapons systems, military personnel and property around the world.

The annual exercise has facilitated the vast bureaucracy’s ability to locate arms and tally up weapons inventories, saving money and making it easier to find and ship some critical technology to Ukraine.

For example, when Ukrainian defense officials tell their U.S. counterparts they have two weeks supply left of a critical item and want to know when they can get more, “that’s to me a really great example of why it matters to get this sort of thing right of counting inventory, knowing where it is and knowing what it is,” McCord said.

The United States has “not been in a position where we’ve gotten only a few days of some critical ammunition left,” McCord said, “but we are now supporting a partner who is.”

Ukraine has relied heavily on the United States for weapons to defend itself since Russia launched an invasion in February. Ukraine has received nearly $18 billion in arms from the United States.

To complete the audit, 1,600 auditors conducted 220 site visits and 750 virtual visits and assessed $3.5 trillion in assets and $3.7 trillion in liabilities, the Pentagon said. Nine units were expected to receive clean assessments from the auditors, in line with last year, McCord said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security took a decade to pass a comprehensive audit, and Pentagon officials have said the Department of Defense could take just as long, making 2027 a possible date for its first clean bill of health.