Checking Pentagon's Credit

Just what was the rationale behind those individuals in the military who misused government credit cards, embarrassed top brass, and took up Congress's time trying to get to the bottom of the latest Pentagon spending scandal?

Perhaps the Department of Defense is so gigantic that some cardholders thought no one would really notice such abuses as the purchase of a designer briefcase from Nordstrom or a $13,000 shopping spree in Puerto Rico by an Army reservist's spouse.

Thankfully, someone did notice.

Last year, 1.8 million military-employed credit cardholders charged some $9 billion for travel or purchases. A General Accounting Office study of two Navy installations in San Diego found some $660,000 in "known and potential fraud" in purchases from pizza to pet supplies. "We found no compelling reason that over 1,700 individuals were given the power to spend money on the government's behalf," was one GAO conclusion.

Those infractions suggest widespread abuse of credit cards, and damage the reputation of those who faithfully work for the military.

Such cards have proliferated largely because they help streamline purchasing. But if eliminating red tape opens the door to fraudulent misuse, spending policies obviously need strengthening.

When basic honesty is not being exercised, stricter controls must be.

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