Expired Appropriations:

New Limitations on Availability Make Improved Management by DOD Essential

NSIAD-91-156: Published: Jul 18, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Defense's (DOD) use of expired appropriations, focusing on the: (1) growth and size of the M accounts and the merged surplus authority through September 30, 1990; (2) use of such accounts by the Army, Navy, and Air Force to fund upward adjustments of contract costs; and (3) extent to which that use satisfied all legal requirements.

GAO found that: (1) between 1980 and 1990, the services' combined M accounts grew from $2.7 billion to $18.8 billion, and the merged surplus authority grew from $5.2 billion to $27 billion; (2) contract cost overruns, the settlement of contractors' claims, and the funding of contingent liability from expired budget authority accounted for over half of the expired budget authority requested; (3) between fiscal years 1985 and 1989, certain programs made multiple requests for large amounts of expired and lapsed budget authority to fund upward adjustments of previously obligated budget authority; (4) legislation limited the requirement that DOD notify Congress before using expired budget authority to make large upward adjustments to contract costs; (5) of the 18 upward adjustments GAO studied, nine were proper, three were improper, and the remaining six were necessitated by poor management practices; (6) new legislation will phase out existing M accounts, eliminate merged surplus authority, and make expired appropriations available to agencies for a finite period; and (7) such actions will increase the need for agencies to improve their management and control over the use of expired appropriations.

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