When it's playtime at Air Force golf courses, clubs and bowling alleys, it's pay time for American taxpayers. An internal Air Force audit shows that millions of tax dollars are being spent on fun and games, contrary to a congressional mandate to cut that spending. And, the expenses are being hidden by the local bases to fool Congress and the Pentagon.
Auditors are still crossing the t's and dotting the i's on the audit of the Air Force's Military Welfare and Readiness Division (MWR), but we have obtained an official summary of their findings. It shows $20 million in fraud in the Air Force MWR, the agency that administers recreation and social facilities at the bases.
The Air Force Audit Agency investigated 32 of the 140 bases around the world, including the headquarters of eight Air Force commands, and looked at how those bases spend money on golf courses, tennis courts, bowling alleys, clubs, day care centers and other amenities. What they found wasn't pretty.
In 1985, Congress ordered the military to stop building major new recreational facilities and stop large additions to the old ones. The auditors found that $8.4 million has been spent or is slated to be spent in violation of that order. Another $12.6 million in expenses were labeled by the auditors as "questionable."
Air Force sources told our associate Tim Warner that there is nothing to stop the fraud -- no external or internal oversight system to keep the local brass from juggling the figures they report to the Pentagon and Congress.
The auditors found cases where base officers deliberately under-reported their expenses, or split a major construction contract into small contracts that didn't need approval from headquarters.
In some cases, the base commanders have ordered the construction of a new officers club or golf course in blatant disregard for the congressional mandate.
Four Air Force bases spent more than $1.5 million total to build or make major repairs to golf courses. Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina spent $646,505 on golf course construction without congressional approval.
Similarly, Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio spent $446,068 on a golf course in violation of the order from Congress.
At Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, it was a $772,000 skeet-shooting club.
At Yokota Air Base in Japan, it was a $1 million bowling alley. Also at Yokota, the brass simply had to have a $221,600 Italian restaurant. It went out of business in two years. The auditors put that one under the heading of "questionable expenditures."
Mildenhall Air Base in England had approval to spend $70,000 repairing the officers club. Instead, the base spent $2 million on miscellaneous repair contracts.
At Ramstein Air Base in Germany, internal memos disclose that base officials worked out a plan to under-report their expenses, the audit says. They submitted paperwork on $1.8 million when they had spent $4 million.