Defense Environmental Issues:

Improved Guidance Needed for Reporting on Recovered Cleanup Costs

GAO-02-103: Published: Oct 26, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 2001.

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Charles I. Patton, Jr
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The cleanup of contaminated Department of Defense (DOD) sites could cost billions of dollars. Private contractors or lessees that may have contributed to such contamination may also be responsible for cleanup costs. DOD and other responsible parties either agree to a cost sharing arrangement with the responsible parties conducting the cleanup or DOD conducts the cleanup and attempts to recover the other parties' share after the cleanup. On the basis of a GAO study, DOD issued guidance requiring its components to identify, investigate, and pursue cost recoveries and to report on them in the Defense Environmental Restoration Program Annual Report to Congress. The data on cost recoveries from non-Defense parties included in the Department's report for fiscal year 1999 were inaccurate, inconsistent, and incomplete. As a result, neither Congress nor DOD can determine the extent of progress made in recovering costs or the extent to which cost recoveries may offset cleanup costs. Data on cost recoveries included throughout the annual report were also missing from the appendix. Thus, DOD may not know whether all potential cost recoveries have been actively pursued and reported.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of the Deputy UnderSecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment issued September 2001 guidance, to the Services and Defense-wide Agencies, on reporting requirements in the annual report on the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, that included requirements for cost sharing reporting. Subsequently, data requested for the annual report and the format of reporting has been changed, effective October 2001. The Defense official responsible for the annual report stated that these changes have enhanced the value of reported data on cost sharing efforts.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Congress and the Department of Defense have accurate, consistent, and complete information on cost recovery efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment to modify existing guidance in areas where it is silent or unclear and provide specific guidance for (1) defining the types of cost sharing arrangements that should be reported, (2) calculating the costs of pursuing recovery, (3) reporting both cumulative and fiscal year data, and (4) capturing and reporting amounts spent by non-Defense parties under cost sharing arrangements. The guidance should include control procedures for ensuring that the data reported by the Department's components are accurate, consistent, and complete; identify all responsible parties; and include reasons for not pursuing recoveries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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