OUR VIEW: Hill's auditing errors

Jul 27 2010 - 4:30pm

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Wild blue yonder
Wild blue yonder

Two years ago, Hill Air Force Base was embarrassed by the news that it mistakenly sent classified ballistic missile components to Taiwan. As a result of that dangerous goof, three generals were disciplined and two eventually retired.

One would have hoped that Hill's due diligence toward nuclear-related items might improve. But that isn't the case. The base is still misplacing very important pieces of material. According to a U.S. Department of Defense audit that compares it to eight other bases, Hill did poorly in keeping track of nuclear-related items.

The Air Force Audit Agency recorded that Hill had 219 nuclear-related items found that were not listed on accountable records. That's about a quarter of the 932 misplaced items logged at all nine bases in the audit. Only Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, with 343 misplaced nuclear-related items, logged more errors than Hill.

Although the latest errors at Hill are not considered to be compromising to Air Force security or safety, it is still very disconcerting that two years after the ballistic missile components, Hill still can't get its nuclear show in order. Military leaders at the base must improve Hill's record-keeping. These kinds of goofs always have the potential, we must remember, to turn into dangerous mistakes. We are in a global war on terror, and no possibilities of attack can be discounted.

The Air Force has published procedures and timing for future inventories. We expect that Hill employees will learn from its many mistakes and make sure that future inventories are error-free or at least show remarkable improvement. Taxpayers should expect nothing less from our military.

The most recent audit was comprised of three personnel teams at Hill -- including the Ogden Air Logistics Center -- that were checking inventory at the base. The three teams found 112 unrecorded nuclear-related items. Afterwards, Defense Department auditors examined the inventory again and discovered 107 more unrecorded items. Hill's three audit teams had mistakenly assumed that the 107 items found in the second audit had already been located by a different auditing team.

As we can see, Hill has a lot of work to do to improve its internal auditing skills.

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