DOD's High Risk Areas:

Actions Needed to Reduce Vulnerabilities and Improve Business Outcomes

GAO-09-460T: Published: Mar 12, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 2009.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) spends billions of dollars to sustain key business operations intended to support the warfighter. In January, GAO released its 2009 high-risk series update report for the 111th Congress. This series emphasizes federal programs and operations that are at high risk because of vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement and has also evolved to draw attention to areas associated with broad-based transformation needed to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability. Of the 30 high-risk areas identified by GAO across government, DOD bears sole responsibility for eight defense specific high-risk areas and shares responsibility for seven other high-risk areas--all of which are related to its major business operations. The Committee asked GAO to provide its views on (1) actions needed to achieve measurable outcomes in DOD's high-risk areas and (2) DOD's progress in strengthening its management approach for business transformation, including establishing the Chief Management Officer (CMO) position. GAO was additionally asked to highlight information regarding the high-risk area related to contract management at the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration.

Longstanding weaknesses in DOD's business operations adversely affect the department's economy, efficiency, and effectiveness, and have resulted in a lack of adequate accountability. As a result, DOD continues to experience cost growth in many of these areas and wastes billions of dollars annually that could be freed up for higher priority needs. DOD's senior leadership has shown a commitment to transforming business operations, and taken many steps to address weaknesses. However, additional actions are needed to achieve and sustain progress. DOD has taken some steps to establish the CMO and other key positions, but still lacks some critical elements to strengthen its management approach. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 codified the CMO position, created a Deputy CMO, directed that CMO duties be assigned to the Under Secretary of each military department, and required a strategic plan for business operations. DOD has yet to clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and relationships among key positions, including the Deputy CMO and military department CMOs. Also, its first plan, issued in July 2008, lacks clear goals, objectives, and performance measures. As DOD's approach continues to evolve, GAO remains open to the possibility of further progress. However, because of the roles and responsibilities currently assigned to key positions, it is still unclear whether DOD will provide the long-term sustained leadership needed to address significant challenges in its business operations.

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