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Senator calls for hearing on Pentagon payroll problems

U.S. Senator for Delaware Tom Carper speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator for Delaware Tom Carper speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The leader of a U.S. Senate committee said Wednesday the panel would hold a hearing later this year to examine systemic payroll problems in the U.S. military, following a Reuters investigation that showed how widespread Pentagon pay errors disrupt the lives of soldiers.

Senator Tom Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he found continuing pay problems faced by the U.S. military and their families "deeply disturbing."

"The (Defense) Department's antiquated and inefficient financial systems lead to improper payments, and cause undue burdens on our troops and families," Carper said in a statement emailed to Reuters. The Delaware Democrat said he and the committee's ranking Republican, Senator Tom Coburn, "plan to examine this issue in a hearing later this year."

In a report published Tuesday, Reuters found multiple examples of pay mistakes affecting active-duty and discharged military personnel, from privates to generals. It traced the source of the errors to a vast array of old and incompatible record-keeping systems.

(See the Reuters special report: How the Pentagon's payroll quagmire traps America's soldiers: http://reut.rs/16opM13)

The Reuters report said the errors were part of the Defense Department's broader failure to keep track of its money. The Pentagon annually reports to Congress that its books are in such disarray that an audit is impossible.

Coburn, in a separate statement, said it was "unacceptable" that the Army was still struggling with payroll issues. "After putting their lives on the line, our soldiers should not have to have worry about whether they will receive the pay they have earned," the Oklahoma Republican said. "Payroll problems quickly become morale problems and needless distractions for our troops during deployment. There is no excuse for this financial mismanagement."

Separately, lawmakers attending a House of Representatives hearing on the difficulties of tracking government spending complained about Army payroll problems and the larger challenge of bad bookkeeping at the Pentagon.

"Maybe we should alert everyone who's serving in the Army they should check their payroll stubs very carefully, because they could be paid the wrong salary ... This is pretty outrageous, isn't it?" said Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, at the hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, another Democrat, said the National Security Agency "can tell us how many times Aunt Margaret has called Aunt Matilda, but you can't get the DoD (Department of Defense) to do an audit - it's a black hole."

(Reporting By Susan Cornwell)

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