Expired Appropriations:

New Limitations on Availability Make Improved Management by DOD Essential

NSIAD-91-226: 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.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD issued guidance, dated June 13, 1991, that fully implemented the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the service secretaries to revise their procedures for the use of expired budget authority to require, in addition to the information already provided in the request and approval process, a comprehensive statement concerning the reason for the upward adjustment. This information should explain the circumstances, contingencies, or management practices that caused the need for the upward adjustment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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