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Video: Deputy SECDEF shows ridiculous indignation at Jon Stewart for asking about corruption

Comedian Jon Stewart delivers remarks at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games, Tampa, Florida, June 22, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
April 10, 2023

Entertainer Jon Stewart challenged the Defense Department during a discussion with Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Thursday, arguing that “f-cking corruption” has caused U.S. troops to be on food stamps when the department receives a massive budget worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Stewart asked Hicks about the Pentagon’s failed audits and suggested that the failures are evidence of “waste, fraud, and abuse” within the department. Hicks frequently laughed at Stewart’s questions and was condescending throughout the interview.

“The audit that they have in the military doesn’t really look at whether or not there’s efficacy, it’s just whether or not it got delivered the thing that they ordered and…” Stewart said before getting interrupted by Hicks.

“That is any audit,” Hicks said. “That is true.”

“But generally those audits aren’t $400 billion for Raytheon and $1.7 trillion for a plane that doesn’t seems to be, like, there is a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse within a system that is…” Stewart responded before Hicks interrupted again.  

“‘Audit’ and ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ are not the same thing,” Hicks said. “So, let’s decompose these pieces for a moment.”

“Then please educate me on what the difference is,” Stewart said.

“So, an audit is exactly what you just described, which is, “Do I know what was delivered to which place? The ability to pass an audit, or the fact that the DoD has not passed an audit, is not suggestive of waste, fraud, and abuse. That is completely false, right there,” Hicks responded.

Stewart pressed Hicks on what precisely a failed audit indicates.  

“It’s suggestive that we can’t–we don’t have an accurate inventory that we can pull up of what we have where. That is not the same as saying, ‘We can’t do that because waste, fraud, and abuse has occurred,'” Hicks asserted.

“So, in my world, that’s waste,” Stewart said. “If I give you a billion dollars and you can’t tell me what happened to it, that to me is wasteful. That means you are not responsible. But if you can’t tell me where it went, then what am I supposed to think? And when there has been reporting–I mean, this is not, look, I’m not saying this is on you and that you caused this.”

Hicks laughed and said, “I’m pretty sure I didn’t cause it.”

“But I think it’s a tough argument to make that an $850 billion budget to an organization that can’t pass an audit and tell you where that money went, like, I think most people would consider that somewhere in the realm of waste, fraud, or abuse because they would wonder why that money isn’t well accounted for,” Stewart continued. “And, especially when they see food insecurity on military bases and they see…”

Hicks interrupted Stewart again, saying “we should be talking” about food insecurity among U.S. troops, before laughing and adding, “I kind of understand where you’re trying to go, other than the dollars, which really bother you.”

“When I see a State Department get a certain amount of money and a military budget be ten times that, and I see a struggle within government to get people like, more basic services, and then that department that got that–I mean, we got out of 20 years of war and the Pentagon got a $50 billion raise. Like, that’s shocking to me,” Stewart said.

“Now, I may not understand exactly the ins and outs, and the incredible magic of an audit. But I’m a human being who lives on the Earth and can’t figure out how $850 billion to a department means that the rank and file still have to be on food stamps. Like, to me, that’s f-cking corruption,” he continued. “I’m sorry. And, if like, that blows your mind and you think that’s like a crazy agenda for me to have, I really think that that’s institutional thinking, and that it’s not looking at the day-to-day reality of the people that you call the greatest dighting force in the world.”

“So, again, I get back to this idea of like, I’m not looking to pick a fight with you. But I am surprised at the reaction to these questions are, ‘You don’t know what an audit is, bucko.’ Like, that’s just weird to me,” Stewart added.

In November, Pentagon once again failed a comprehensive financial audit. The audit is the fifth comprehensive review the department has completed, and the fifth where auditors were unable to find sufficient record keeping for the DoD to pass off on a clean audit.