The US Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose mission statement is to “provide Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars”, released a new report on 27 April looking into the “business operations” of the Department of Defense (DOD). Human resource management, supply chains, finances and contract management are good examples of the type of work the GAO scrutinized.
The GAO report found that while the department has taken some important steps to address its shortcomings in the business sphere such as setting baseline costs for activities like real estate management, a lot of work still needs to be done. For one thing, the DOD lacks sufficient records to a allow for a comprehensive, quantitative approach to understanding the department’s business reform progress. The office found that for some DOD management achievements, “the underlying analyses were not always well documented and the savings were not always consistent with the department’s definitions of reform.”
The report goes on to discuss how the DOD is managing to address these shortcomings:
“DOD has taken some actions to improve its business operations data, but remains limited by the lack of reliable cost data, affecting its ability to monitor and inform its reform efforts. Having reliable data to identify baseline costs of the department’s business and management functions and to measure progress has been a key challenge facing DOD, but one the department is trying to address.”
Another key issue had been identified with the place improvements are being made. There are notable improvements in some specific areas like logistics but the DOD “faces challenges in improving department-wide management”.
Finally, the GAO summed up its recommendations in one short paragraph:
“In prior work on which this testimony is based, GAO recommended that DOD improve its performance measures related to various reform efforts, and standardize cost-savings documentation to ensure that reported savings are consistent with DOD’s definitions of reform, among other things. DOD concurred with the recommendations.”
GAO inquiries in the DOD are not uncommon. For example, in late February the office looked into how the Department of Defense fails to provide adequate allowances for servicemembers’ uniforms which results in out-of-pocket costs which are often unequal between ranks and genders.
The most recent report, which goes into much greater detail, can be found here.