Differences in the Services' Military Family Housing Programs Hinder Good Management

CED-81-71: Published: Mar 5, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1981.

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There is considerable variation among the military services in the cost of operating and maintaining family housing units. The House Committee on Appropriations requested GAO to study the subject. GAO agreed to determine: (1) the reasons for operations and maintenance unit cost variances among the services; (2) the budget process the Department of Defense (DOD) and each service uses in developing the military family housing operations and maintenance budget request; and (3) the controls governing appropriated military family housing operations and maintenance funds use.

Many factors contribute to the variances among the services' individual average unit cost to operate and maintain family housing units in their inventories. These include housing-related problems, housing categories, geographic locations, and cost-accounting practices. Some of the housing-related problems may substantially affect future appropriation and spending decisions requiring additional funds. One problem GAO discovered at a service installation involves a potential health hazard. DOD cannot quantify or determine the extent to which individual factors contribute to the variances in the unit cost of operating and maintaining military family housing because the costs of unlike units are averaged together, services include different types of costs, and sometimes those costs are inaccurate. Housing personnel at all levels expressed concern with the overall usefulness of the reports generated by the system. GAO believes that the benefits of an effective cost accounting and reporting system will remain in doubt until some basic questions about the management of military family housing are resolved: (1) the question of what DOD is trying to manage; (2) the question of what cost information is needed by DOD; and (3) the question of what other information is needed by DOD and the services to supplement or replace cost information. Detailed feedback on budget changes make installations aware of budget priorities and help preserve budget discipline. Management flexibility allows DOD to redistribute funds to meet changing program needs, but DOD has controls on its flexibility.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congressional appropriation committees should pursue the following issues DOD will need to address as it reevaluates its management information needs: (1) what DOD and the services are trying to manage; (2) what cost information is needed by DOD and the services, and at what levels, to make the proper decisions; and (3) what other information is needed by DOD and the services, and at what levels, to supplement or replace cost information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct each service not already doing so to provide feedback to each installation showing a detailed listing of changes to its initial budget request, suggested fund distribution, and reasons for funding differences (broken down by the nine standard budget line items).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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