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U.S. Government Accountability Office: 

Maximizing DOD's Potential to Face New Fiscal Challenges and 
Strengthen Interagency Partnerships: 

By Gene L. Dodaro: 
Acting Comptroller General of the United States: 

Before the National Defense University: 
Washington, D.C. 

January 6, 2010: 


It is a pleasure to be here this morning to participate in the 
National Defense University's speaker's program. GAO has a long-
standing relationship with NDU, one that we are extremely proud of. In 
fact, several of our senior executives are graduates of the National 
War College or the Industrial College of the Armed Forces; they have 
spoken highly of their experiences. GAO's staff includes retired 
military personnel, reservists, and former employees of the State
Department, Agency for International Development (AID) and other 
agencies. These individuals bring extremely valuable insight and 
knowledge to GAO's work. 

My remarks today will focus on the Department of Defense (DOD) and the 
challenges it faces given our national government's current long term 
unsustainable fiscal path and ongoing U.S. commitments in Iraq and 
Afghanistan. DOD can take steps to better position itself for the 
future and maximize the use of taxpayer dollars, particularly by 
improving its business operations. More broadly, I will also offer 
some thoughts on how the Department can work more collaboratively with 
other national security agencies, such as State and AID, to build the 
strong partnerships needed to adapt to the changing complexities of 
the national security environment. As the next generation of national 
security leaders, many of you will go on to assignments where you will 
be directly responsible for key decisions that will affect not only 
your individual agencies, but the government's collective effort to 
achieve national goals. My intent today is to stimulate your thinking 
as you prepare to assume these leadership responsibilities. 

To set the context for my remarks, it is clear that the United States 
faces a complex and rapidly changing national security environment, 
one characterized by constantly evolving threats, such as cyber 
attacks on public and private institutions, and increasing global 
interdependence as vividly demonstrated by the recent global financial 
crisis and economic downturn. Even before the economic downturn in 
2008, the United States faced growing fiscal imbalances, 
internationally and domestically. A widening gap between U.S. savings 
and consumption has led to mounting trade deficits and a vulnerable 
dependence on foreign capital inflows to finance U.S. spending. In the 
near term, our government continues to face the challenges from the 
financial system stress and economic downturn. Over the longer-term, 
we face equally difficult fiscal challenges driven largely by the 
rising cost of health care and an aging population. 

The current unsustainable long term fiscal path of our national 
government is going to put increasing pressure on the entire federal 
budget, including the national security side. 

Consequently, there will be increasing demand and competition for 
resources, and policymakers will confront difficult decisions on 
funding priorities. 

In particular, DOD is facing a number of internal fiscal pressures as 
it tries to support ongoing operations, rebuild readiness, and prepare 
for the future. To succeed in this era of fiscal constraint, new ways 
of thinking, constructive change, and basic reforms are essential. 
Everything must be on the table and subject to scrutiny. This includes 
the stove-piped approaches to planning and budgeting that have 
typically led to a mismatch between programs and budgets. It is also 
time to rethink and act decisively to rectify inefficient ways of 
doing business that undermine support for our troops on the 

Let me put this another way. DOD is second to none in warfighting 
capabilities. But it is a very different story when it comes to issues 
of economy, efficiency, and accountability on the Department's 
business side. DOD continues to waste billions of dollars each year 
that could be used to boost readiness, improve the quality of military 
life, and address emerging security threats. By taking decisive action 
now, DOD can avoid a range of unintended consequences and less than 
optimal performance in the future. 

Clearly, the federal budget's structural imbalance affects the entire 
national security community, not just DOD. As difficult decisions are 
made about national priorities, all U.S. national security agencies 
will need to strike an affordable balance between investments in 
current missions and investments in new capabilities to meet future 
challenges. Given the complexities of the security environment, they 
will also need to build stronger partnerships and improve their 
capability to collaborate on solutions to address interrelated 
conventional and emerging threats that transcend the scope and 
authority of any one agency. 

Before getting into greater details, let me suggest some resource 
material you may find useful. To bring Congress and the incoming 
administration up to speed on major management issues, risks, and 
challenges, GAO launched a special transition website following the 
November 2008 elections. We have now moved this information to a 
permanent spot on GAO's website that highlights major management 
challenges in the federal government, including areas that we consider 
to be high-risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, 
abuse, and mismanagement or in need of broad based transformation. 
This site has good descriptions of many of the DOD-related and 
interagency topics reviewed by GAO. To get there, just go to GAO's 
home page at [hyperlink,] and, in the upper right 
hand corner, click on the box marked "GAO High Risk & Other Major 
Management Challenges." 

Fiscal Challenges Facing the Nation and DOD: 

Before focusing on DOD specifically, I would like to synopsize the 
broader fiscal situation and outlook for our government's finances. 
Weaknesses in the economy and the financial markets and the 
government's response to them have contributed to a significant 
increase in the federal deficit and debt. As you can see in this 
table, the fiscal year 2009 deficit reached a record $1.4 trillion and 
the debt held by the public exceeded 50 percent of GDP, a level not 
seen since 1956. 

Table: Deficits, Debt Held by the Public and Debt Subject to Limit: 

Surplus (+)/ Deficit (-) (trillions of dollars): 
Actual Fiscal Year 2001 (as of 09/30/01): $0.1; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2005 (as of 09/30/05): -$0.3; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2008 (as of 09/30/08): -$0.5; 
Estimated Actual Fiscal Year 2009 (as of 09/30/09): -$1.4; 
Estimate for Fiscal Year 2010 from President's Midsession Review: 

Surplus (+)/ Deficit (-) (percent of GDP): 
Actual Fiscal Year 2001 (as of 09/30/01): 1.3%; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2005 (as of 09/30/05): -2.6%; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2008 (as of 09/30/08): -3.2%; 
Estimated Actual Fiscal Year 2009 (as of 09/30/09): -10.0%; 
Estimate for Fiscal Year 2010 from President's Midsession Review: 

Debt held by the public (trillions of dollars): 
Actual Fiscal Year 2001 (as of 09/30/01): $3.3; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2005 (as of 09/30/05): $4.6; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2008 (as of 09/30/08): $5.8; 
Estimated Actual Fiscal Year 2009 (as of 09/30/09): $7.6; 
Estimate for Fiscal Year 2010 from President's Midsession Review: $9.6. 

Debt held by the public (percent of GDP): 
Actual Fiscal Year 2001 (as of 09/30/01): 33.0%; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2005 (as of 09/30/05): 37.5%; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2008 (as of 09/30/08): 40.8%; 
Estimated Actual Fiscal Year 2009 (as of 09/30/09): 53.1%; 
Estimate for Fiscal Year 2010 from President's Midsession Review: 

Debt subject to the limit (trillions of dollars): 
Actual Fiscal Year 2001 (as of 09/30/01): $5.7; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2005 (as of 09/30/05): $7.9; 
Actual Fiscal Year 2008 (as of 09/30/08): $10.0; 
Estimated Actual Fiscal Year 2009 (as of 09/30/09): $11.9; 
Estimate for Fiscal Year 2010 from President's Midsession Review: 

Sources: Treasury and OMB. 

[End of table] 

While the current fiscal situation has, understandably, received 
considerable attention, the fact is that the federal government faces 
even larger financing challenges that will persist long after the 
economy recovers and financial markets stabilize. As the following 
graph shows, recent GAO simulations indicate that, absent major fiscal 
policy changes, federal debt held by the public will increase 
dramatically over the next several decades and could trend towards 200 
percent of GDP. In GAO's "Baseline Extended" simulation, which 
reflects current law through 2019 and then holds revenue and spending 
other than major entitlement programs constant as a share of GDP, 
discretionary spending is lower as a share of the economy, and 
revenues are higher, than the 20-year historical average. In the 
"Alternative" simulation, which reflects historical trends and policy 
preferences, both discretionary spending and revenue as a share of the 
economy are nearly at the historical averages. Let me put this into 
perspective. Under one scenario, in a little over 10 years, debt held 
by the public as a share of GDP could exceed the historical high 
reached in the aftermath of World War II. 

Figure: Debt Held by the Public as a Share of GDP Under Two Different 
Fiscal Policy Simulations: 

[Refer to PDF for image: multiple line graph] 

Percent of GDP: 

Historical high: 109% in 1946. 

Year: 1999; 
Baseline extended: 39.8; 	
Alternative: 39.8. 

Year: 2000; 
Baseline extended: 35.1; 
Alternative: 35.1. 

Year: 2001; 
Baseline extended: 33.0;
Alternative: 33.0. 

Year: 2002; 
Baseline extended: 34.113	
Alternative: 34.113 

Year: 2003; 
Baseline extended: 36.2; 	
Alternative: 36.2. 

Year: 2004; 
Baseline extended: 37.3; 	
Alternative: 37.3. 

Year: 2005; 
Baseline extended: 37.5; 	
Alternative: 37.5. 

Year: 2006; 
Baseline extended: 36.5; 	
Alternative: 36.5. 

Year: 2007; 
Baseline extended: 36.2; 
Alternative: 36.2. 

Year: 2008; 
Baseline extended: 40.2; 
Alternative: 40.2. 

Year: 2009; 
Baseline extended: 53.8; 
Alternative: 53.8. 

Year: 2010; 
Baseline extended: 61.4; 
Alternative: 61.6. 

Year: 2011; 
Baseline extended: 65.2; 
Alternative: 67.6. 

Year: 2012; 
Baseline extended: 65.9; 
Alternative: 71.6. 

Year: 2013; 
Baseline extended: 65.5; 
Alternative: 74.8. 

Year: 2014; 
Baseline extended: 66.0; 
Alternative: 79.4. 

Year: 2015; 
Baseline extended: 66.5; 
Alternative: 84. 

Year: 2016; 
Baseline extended: 67; 
Alternative: 89. 

Year: 2017; 
Baseline extended: 67.5; 
Alternative: 94. 

Year: 2018; 
Baseline extended: 67.0; 
Alternative: 98.4. 

Year: 2019; 
Baseline extended: 67.8; 
Alternative: 104.3. 

Year: 2020; 
Baseline extended: 68.9; 
Alternative: 110.4. 

Year: 2021; 
Baseline extended: 70.1; 
Alternative: 116.3. 

Year: 2022; 
Baseline extended: 71.6; 
Alternative: 122.4. 

Year: 2023; 
Baseline extended: 73.4; 
Alternative: 128.8. 

Year: 2024; 
Baseline extended: 75.6; 
Alternative: 135.3. 

Year: 2025; 
Baseline extended: 78.1; 
Alternative: 142.1. 

Year: 2026; 
Baseline extended: 81; 
Alternative: 149.3. 

Year: 2027; 
Baseline extended: 84.2; 
Alternative: 156.9. 

Year: 2028; 
Baseline extended: 87.8; 
Alternative: 164.9. 

Year: 2029; 
Baseline extended: 91.7. 
Alternative: 173.4. 

Year: 2030; 
Baseline extended: 95.9; 
Alternative: 182.3. 

Year: 2031; 
Baseline extended: 100.6; 
Alternative: 191.6. 

Year: 2032; 
Baseline extended: 105.5; 
Alternative: 201.4. 

Year: 2033; 
Baseline extended: 110.8; 
Alternative: 211.5. 

Year: 2034; 
Baseline extended: 116.3; 
Alternative: 222.0. 

Year: 2035; 
Baseline extended: 122.2; 
Alternative: 232.9. 

Year: 2036; 
Baseline extended: 128.5; 
Alternative: 244.2. 

Year: 2037; 
Baseline extended: 134.8; 
Alternative: 255.9. 

Year: 2038; 
Baseline extended: 141.5; 
Alternative: 268.0. 

Year: 2039; 
Baseline extended: 148.5; 
Alternative: 280.4. 

Year: 2040; 
Baseline extended: 155.8; 
Alternative: 293.2. 

Year: 2041; 
Baseline extended: 163.4; 
Alternative: 306.4. 

Year: 2042; 
Baseline extended: 171.2; 
Alternative: 319.9. 

Year: 2043; 
Baseline extended: 179.2; 
Alternative: 333.7. 

Year: 2044; 
Baseline extended: 187.5; 
Alternative: 347.9. 

Year: 2045; 
Baseline extended: 196.1; 
Alternative: 362.5. 

Year: 2046; 
Baseline extended: 204.9; 
Alternative: 377.4. 

Year: 2047; 
Baseline extended: 213.9; 
Alternative: 392.6. 

Year: 2048; 
Baseline extended: 223.4; 
Alternative: 408.4. 

Year: 2049; 
Baseline extended: 233.1; 
Alternative: 424.7. 

Year: 2050; 
Baseline extended: 243.1; 
Alternative: 441.3. 

Source: GAO's Fall analysis based on the Trustee's assumptions for 
Social Security and Medicare. 

Note: The Baseline Extended simulation reflects current law through 
2019 and then holds revenue and spending other than major entitlement 
programs constant as a share of GDP. The Alternative simulation 
reflects historical trends and policy preferences such as extending 
expiring tax provisions and holding discretionary spending close to 
its historical average. Some of the increase in debt has been used to 
purchase financial assets as part of programs to stabilize financial 
markets and stimulate the economy. The value of these financial assets 
has not been subtracted from the total debt held by public in our 

[End of figure] 

These debt levels reflect the cumulative effect of growing deficits. 
While the timing of deficits and the resulting debt buildup varies 
depending on the assumptions used, both simulations show that the 
federal government is on an unsustainable path. 

Figure: Federal Budget Surpluses and Deficits Under Different Fiscal 
Policy Simulations: 

[Refer to PDF for image: multiple line graph] 

Percent of GDP: 

Baseline Extended: 1.359; 
Alternative: 1.359. 

Baseline Extended: 2.433; 
Alternative: 2.433. 

Baseline Extended: 1.274; 
Alternative: 1.274. 

Baseline Extended: -1.52; 
Alternative: -1.52. 

Baseline Extended: -3.495; 
Alternative: -3.495. 

Baseline Extended: -3.588; 
Alternative: -3.588. 

Baseline Extended: -2.602; 
Alternative: -2.602. 

Baseline Extended: -1.877; 
Alternative: -1.877. 

Baseline Extended: -1.172; 
Alternative: -1.172. 

Baseline Extended: -3.179; 
Alternative: -3.179. 

Baseline Extended: -11.223; 
Alternative: -11.231. 

Baseline Extended: -9.564; 
Alternative: -9.693. 

Baseline Extended: -6.143;
Alternative: -8.335. 

Baseline Extended: -3.745;
Alternative: -7.191. 

Baseline Extended: -3.241;
Alternative: -7.209. 

Baseline Extended: -3.222; 
Alternative: -7.591. 

Baseline Extended: -3.097; 
Alternative: -7.835. 

Baseline Extended: -3.305; 
Alternative: -8.388. 

Baseline Extended: -3.206; 
Alternative: -8.684. 

Baseline Extended: -3.063; 
Alternative: -8.952. 

Baseline Extended: -3.42; 
Alternative: -9.712. 

Baseline Extended: -3.708; 
Alternative: -10.061. 

Baseline Extended: -4.008; 
Alternative: -10.404. 

Baseline Extended: -4.321; 
Alternative: -10.755. 

Baseline Extended: -4.661; 
Alternative: -11.128. 

Baseline Extended: -5.012; 
Alternative: -11.504. 

Baseline Extended: -5.385; 
Alternative: -11.918. 

Baseline Extended: -5.803; 
Alternative: -12.473. 

Baseline Extended: -6.241; 
Alternative: -13.135. 

Baseline Extended: -6.694; 
Alternative: -13.816. 

Baseline Extended: -7.147; 
Alternative: -14.499. 

Baseline Extended: -7.613; 
Alternative: -15.201. 

Baseline Extended: -8.09; 
Alternative: -15.917. 

Baseline Extended: -8.572; 
Alternative: -16.643. 

Baseline Extended: -9.065; 
Alternative: -17.382. 

Baseline Extended: -9.555; 
Alternative: -18.12. 

Baseline Extended: -10.053; 
Alternative: -18.872. 

Baseline Extended: -10.556; 
Alternative: -19.634. 

Baseline Extended: -11.065; 
Alternative: -20.406. 

Baseline Extended: -11.564; 
Alternative: -21.172. 

Baseline Extended: -12.062; 
Alternative: -21.942. 

Baseline Extended: -12.567; 
Alternative: -22.724. 

Baseline Extended: -13.073; 
Alternative: -23.513. 

Baseline Extended: -13.576; 
Alternative: -24.303. 

Baseline Extended: -14.094; 
Alternative: -25.113. 

Baseline Extended: -14.629; 
Alternative: -25.945. 

Baseline Extended: -15.173; 
Alternative: -26.791. 

Baseline Extended: -15.718; 
Alternative: -27.643. 

Baseline Extended: -16.279; 
Alternative: -28.517. 

Baseline Extended: -16.852; 
Alternative: -29.411. 

Baseline Extended: -17.442; 
Alternative: -30.33. 

Baseline Extended: -18.038; 
Alternative: -31.261. 

Source: GAO's Fall 2009 analysis based on the Trustees' assumptions 
for Social Security and Medicare. We also run simulations using CBO's 
projections for Social Security and Medicare. The results are not 
materially different. 

[End of figure] 

What drives this outlook? Primarily rising health care costs and an 
aging population. Assuming no changes in Medicare, Medicaid, or Social 
Security, spending on those programs and interest on the federal debt 
will account for an ever-growing share of the economy. This, in turn, 
will affect the resources available for discretionary spending. If tax 
revenue remains near the historical average of about 18 percent of GDP 
for the next few decades, which is shown by the line in this graph, 
every federal agency, including DOD, will face tighter budgets as 
discretionary spending is squeezed. 

Figure: Potential Fiscal Outcomes Under GAO Simulation: Revenues and 
Composition of Spending: 

[Refer to PDF for image: combined line and stacked vertical bar graph] 

Percent of GDP: 

Net interest: 1.3; 
Social Security: 4.8; 
Medicare & Medicaid: 4.8; 
All other spending: 12.5; 
Revenue: 14.9. 

Net interest: 3.4; 
Social Security: 5.2; 
Medicare & Medicaid: 5.8; 
All other spending: 9.2; 
Revenue: 20.2. 

Net interest: 4.7; 
Social Security: 6; 
Medicare & Medicaid: 8; 
All other spending: 9.2; 
Revenue: 20.2. 

Net interest: 7.6; 
Social Security: 6.1; 
Medicare & Medicaid: 9.9; 	
All other spending: 9.2; 
Revenue: 20.2. 

Source: GAO's Fall 2009 analysis based on the Trustee's assumptions 
for Social Security and Medicare. 

[End of figure] 

Clearly, DOD is unique among federal agencies both because of its size 
and budget as well as the complexity of its organizational structure 
and mission. Not only does its budget represent a little over half of 
the entire federal government's discretionary spending, the level of 
resources provided to the Department has risen significantly over 
time, as the following graph shows. For fiscal year 2010, Congress set 
aside about $661 billion for DOD, including about $534 billion for 
base needs and about $127 billion for contingency operations. As of 
December 2009, DOD has received about $1 trillion since 2001 to 
support contingency operations, including those in Iraq, Afghanistan, 
and elsewhere. 

Figure: DOD Budget Authority FY 2001-2010 (Excluding Contingency 

[Refer to PDF for image: combined line and vertical bar graph] 

FY 01: $289.9 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $373 billion. 

FY 02: $331.1 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $414.3 billion. 

FY 03: $368.5 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $445.9 billion. 

FY 04: $376.6 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $441.9 billion. 

FY 05: $400.9 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $452.3 billion. 

FY 06: $418.5 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $456.8 billion. 

FY 07: $434.9 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $459.4 billion. 

FY 08: $450.8 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $466.4 billion. 

FY 09: $513.3 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $522.9 billion. 

FY 10: $534.0 billion; 
Constant FY 10 dollars: $534.0 billion. 

Note: bars reflect nominal dollars, line reflects constant FY10 
dollars. Source: DOD. 

[End of figure] 

Notwithstanding the external pressures, the Pentagon faces its own 
near-term and long-term internal fiscal pressures as it attempts to 
balance competing demands from within. Let me touch on four areas GAO 
has highlighted for the Congress and the Administration. 

First, ongoing operations will continue to require substantial amounts 
of resources. The magnitude of costs for operations in both Iraq and 
Afghanistan will depend on several factors. For example, expenses will 
be influenced by how the U.S.-Iraq security agreement and associated 
troop redeployment plans are implemented, the nature and extent of 
continued U.S. military and civilian presence in Iraq, as well as 
decisions on the timing and composition of additional forces to be 
deployed to Afghanistan, the types of facilities needed to support 
troops remaining in and around Iraq, the amount of equipment to be 
repaired or replaced, and the health care needs of returning veterans. 
Although drawing down troop levels in Iraq may on its surface appear 
to lower costs, previous operations in the Balkans and Kosovo suggest 
that costs could actually rise in the near term. 

Second, extended military operations have taken a toll on readiness 
and rebuilding our force will come with a big price tag. Since 9/11, 
U.S. forces have operated at a high pace and gained considerable 
combat experience. But this high operational tempo has significantly 
affected the readiness of the force, especially in the Army and Marine 
Corps. Personnel are deploying frequently and have little time to 
train for anything other than counterinsurgency missions. Equipment is 
used repeatedly, causing wear and tear. Units that are not deployed 
are transferring equipment and personnel to deploying units, causing 
some shortfalls. Also, the Air Force and the Navy are faced with 
maintaining aging aircraft and ships. Rebuilding readiness is a 
complex and costly effort, but it will be even more challenging at a 
time when DOD is pursuing broad-based initiatives to grow, modernize, 
and transform its forces and capabilities. 

Third, personnel and health care costs are increasing. DOD's military 
personnel outlays have risen significantly since fiscal year 2000, 
fueled in part by increases in basic pay, housing allowances, 
recruitment and retention bonuses, incentive pays and allowances, and 
other special pays. Moreover, a large part of DOD's compensation-
related costs is in the form of benefits and deferred compensation, 
and the cost to provide benefits such as health care continue to 
spiral upward. In fact, expanded health care to reservists, their 
families, and retirees has been the primary cost driver in growing 
benefits costs. 

Fourth, cost growth in weapon systems programs remains a significant 
problem. Total acquisition cost growth on DOD's fiscal year 2008 
portfolio of major programs has reached nearly $300 billion over 
initial estimates. The Pentagon's ability to successfully adapt to 
budgetary constraints will depend in great measure on its ability to 
better manage weapon systems acquisition. This is a long-standing 
challenge at DOD. Back in 1990, GAO first designated DOD's management 
of major weapon systems acquisitions as a high-risk area. And almost 
20 years later, it is still on our high-risk list. The bottom line is 
that programs continue to take longer, cost more, and deliver fewer 
quantities and capabilities than originally planned. Why does this 
happen? It is because at the program level, programs are begun and 
continued without enough knowledge about system requirements, 
technology, and design maturity. Lacking such knowledge, managers rely 
on assumptions that are consistently too optimistic, exposing programs 
to significant and unnecessary risk, and ultimately cost growth and 
delays. Cost overruns lead to fewer resources for other priorities and 
reduced buying power for DOD, and schedule delays mean that the 
warfighter does not get critical capabilities when needed and 
therefore relies on legacy systems or goes without. Recent statements 
and actions by the President, Congress, and the Secretary of Defense 
to bring greater attention to acquisition reform are encouraging. 

Targets of Opportunities for Reform on DOD's Business Side: 

The bottom line is that DOD can no longer afford to conduct business 
as usual. The military has a proven track record in maintaining a 
highly capable warfighting force. Unfortunately, it has not achieved 
the same level of effectiveness on its business side. For more than a 
decade, DOD has dominated GAO's list of federal programs and 
operations at high-risk and vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and 
mismanagement. In fact, all the DOD programs on GAO's High-Risk List 
relate to business operations, including systems and processes related 
to management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, and support 
infrastructure, in addition to weapon systems acquisition. 
Inefficiencies and other long-standing weaknesses in these areas lead 
to challenges in supporting the warfighter, billions of dollars being 
wasted annually, and missed opportunities to free up resources for 
higher priority needs. 

Clearly, DOD's size and complexity contribute to the challenges it 
faces in improving business performance. To the Department's credit, 
top management has put greater emphasis on reform in the past several 
years and we have seen measurable progress in some areas. It is 
obvious that this progress would not have been possible without the 
significant time and efforts of a highly competent, hardworking, and 
dedicated defense workforce. 

With a change in administration, there is always difficulty in 
sustaining momentum on past initiatives. But a change in 
administration also presents important opportunities for change. We at 
GAO have seen a number of indications that the environment may be 
right for DOD to make great strides. 

For example, President Obama has emphasized, publicly and in 
directives, that the federal government needs to be more transparent 
and that contracting reforms are needed governmentwide. In developing 
DOD's fiscal year 2010 budget submission, Secretary Gates indicated a 
willingness to reevaluate programs and make the hard decisions to 
eliminate or take other corrective action on those that are not 
performing well. As a result, programs were adjusted or terminated. In 
December 2008, DOD revised its acquisition policy in ways that could, 
if implemented properly, provide a foundation for developing 
individual acquisition programs with sound, knowledge-based business 
cases. This revision establishes early milestone reviews, requires 
completion of key systems engineering activities and competitive 
prototyping, and emphasizes preliminary design reviews prior to 
program initiation. 

Finally, Congress passed legislation to add further discipline and 
accountability to the acquisition system. This legislation, named the 
Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, contains several 
requirements, including that DOD develop mechanisms to consider trade-
offs among cost, schedule, and performance in establishing program 
requirements and to certify that tradeoffs have been made. 

Before discussing specific ways DOD can capitalize on this renewed 
emphasis and take decisive action to achieve greater fiscal 
discipline, accountability, and effectiveness, let me highlight some 
key elements that must be present to achieve tangible near-term 

Clearly, sustained and focused top-level leadership and sound plans to 
guide transformation efforts are essential. For the first time, DOD 
has a Chief Management Office position, established in law as part of 
the Deputy Secretary of Defense's responsibilities. As the Chief
Management Officer, the Deputy Secretary is responsible, with 
assistance from the Deputy Chief Management Officer, for developing a 
strategic management plan for business operations, and integrating 
efforts to transform business operations. And the military departments 
are also statutorily required to have chief management officers, 
business transformation offices, and business transformation plans. At 
this point, DOD has taken some positive steps to institutionalize 
these positions and organizations, although in some cases, decision-
making authority and relationships are not yet well defined. 

But creating positions and offices is not enough. Success will depend 
on how effectively the department and the military departments can 
institutionalize these positions and organizations. This would include 
defining and clarifying the respective authorities, roles, and 
responsibilities. To do so will afford senior leaders, and those 
responsible for implementation such as you, the authority and means to 
become advocates for transformational change. 

Getting leaders and organizations in place and developing sound plans 
is a good start. But to achieve real reform, the Department needs to 
set priorities, strengthen management accountability, execute its 
plans, gauge actual progress against goals, and make adjustments as 
needed. As part of GAO's broad body of defense-related work, we have 
routinely seen that there is a lack of focus on developing and using 
interim performance measures to measure progress and the impact of 
actions taken. Everyone here has probably seen DOD improvement 
initiatives that looked great on paper, but failed or fell to the 
wayside due to a lack of sustained focus. Transformation initiatives 
need to be set forth into measurable steps toward a long-term goal, 
and then interim measures used to gauge progress and adjust strategy 
if needed. This approach is key to solving many of these long-standing 

Now let me turn to a few key areas where DOD can better tap its 
potential to improve business operations, save money, and optimize 
support to the warfighter. 

Weapon systems acquisition management: 

Arguably, one of the best examples of an area where DOD could make 
real progress in the near-term is in improving its approach to 
acquiring major weapon systems. Since 2003, DOD's portfolio of major 
defense acquisition programs has grown from 77 to 96 programs. And its 
investment in those programs has grown from $1.2 trillion to $1.6 
trillion (fiscal year 2009 dollars).[Footnote 1] This chart shows the 
change in the size and performance of DOD's portfolios of major 
acquisition programs. 

Table: Analysis of DOD Major Defense Acquisition Program Portfolios 
(Fiscal year 2009 dollars): 
Portfolio size: 

Number of programs: 
Fiscal year 2003: 77; 
Fiscal year 2007: 95; 
Fiscal year 2008: 96. 

Total planned commitments: 
Fiscal year 2003: $1.2 trillion; 
Fiscal year 2007: $1.6 trillion; 
Fiscal year 2008: $1.6 trillion. 

Commitments outstanding: 
Fiscal year 2003: $724.2 billion; 
Fiscal year 2007: $875.2 billion; 
Fiscal year 2008: $785.3 billion. 

Portfolio indicators: 

Change to total RDT&E costs from first estimate: 
Fiscal year 2003: 37 percent; 
Fiscal year 2007: 40 percent; 
Fiscal year 2008: 42 percent. 

Change to total acquisition cost from first estimate: 
Fiscal year 2003: 19 percent; 
Fiscal year 2007: 26 percent; 
Fiscal year 2008: 25 percent. 

Total acquisition cost growth: 
Fiscal year 2003: $183 billion; 
Fiscal year 2007: $301.3 billion[A]; 
Fiscal year 2008: $296.4 billion. 

Share of programs with 25 percent increase In program acquisition unit 
cost growth: 
Fiscal year 2003: 41 percent; 
Fiscal year 2007: 44 percent; 
Fiscal year 2008: 42 percent. 
Average schedule delay in delivering initial capabilities: 
Fiscal year 2003: 18 months; 
Fiscal year 2007: 21 months; 
Fiscal year 2008: 22 months. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[A] The total acquisition cost growth for the 2507 portfolio was $295 
billion in 2008 constant dollars. 

[End of table] 

The next graph indicates that over 40 percent of all the major 
programs in DOD's fiscal year 2008 portfolio are about 25 percent over 
budget compared to initial estimates. 

Figure: DOD Cost Outcomes: 

[Refer to PDF for image: vertical bar graph] 
Change in Total	Acquisition Costs From First Estimates: 
FY 2003 Portfolio: 19%; 
FY 2007 Portfolio: 26%; 
FY 2008 Portfolio: 25%. 

Change in RDT&E Costs From First Estimates: 
FY 2003 Portfolio: 37%; 
FY 2007 Portfolio: 40%; 
FY 2008 Portfolio: 42%. 

Share of programs with 25 percent cost growth: 
FY 2003 Portfolio: 41%; 
FY 2007 Portfolio: 44%; 
FY 2008 Portfolio: 42%. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[End of figure] 

Complicating matters, the average delay in delivering initial 
capabilities in DOD's portfolio of weapon systems programs has 
increased over time to 22 months, as this graph shows. DOD's 
performance in some of these areas is driven by older programs, as 
newer programs, on average, have not shown the same degree of cost and 
schedule growth. 

Figure: DOD Program Schedule Outcome: 

[Refer to PDF for image: vertical bar graph] 

Average schedule delay in delivering initial capabilities: 
FY 2003 Portfolio: 18 months; 
FY 2007 Portfolio: 21 months; 
FY 2008 Portfolio: 22 months. 

Source: GAO analysis of DOD data. 

[End of figure] 

Over the next 5 years, DOD expects to invest more than $357 billion on 
major defense acquisition programs. To put this number into 
perspective, $357 billion is nearly half of what Congress has provided 
to support overseas contingency operations over the past 8 years. Much 
of this investment will be used to address cost overruns due to 
shortcomings in planning, execution, and oversight. These types of 
problems have plagued DOD's weapon systems portfolio for the past 30 
years. We see these problems as being at odds with the very capable 
and dedicated people we deal with frequently in the program offices 
and other key organizations. So, why aren't good people getting better 
outcomes? Based on a large body of work in this area, GAO has come to 
see these recurrent problems as not due primarily to mistakes, lack of 
expertise, or unforeseeable events. Rather it is the outgrowth of a 
system in which key processes and incentives are better at saying 
"yes" than "no" to programs that fail to measure up. The challenge is 
to change the dynamics of this culture. 

Because of the magnitude of the investment and the current fiscal 
environment, DOD can no longer afford to let cost growth go unchecked 
and programs inch towards completion. On a positive note, Secretary 
Gates has identified the need for weapon systems acquisition reform as 
chief among DOD's institutional challenges. And our sense is that DOD 
is off to a good start. Last December, DOD made major revisions to its 
acquisition policies, which address many of the problems that can be 
traced back to the acquisition system. And, based on the Weapon System 
Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, DOD is continuing to review and revise 
its policies. 

The revisions, which are in line with past GAO recommendations, aim to 
provide key department leaders with the knowledge they need to make 
informed decisions before a program starts and to maintain discipline 
once it begins. To improve outcomes on the whole, though, DOD must 
ensure that these policy changes are immediately and consistently put 
into practice and reflected in decision-making on individual 
acquisitions. It must also clearly assign accountability to an 
individual or individuals for implementation. 

Secretary Gates has also identified programs that should either be 
adjusted or terminated, based in large part on their performance, cost-
effectiveness, and ultimate value to the war fighter, which is an 
encouraging sign of change. But process reforms, funding cuts, and 
cancellations are not enough to change organizational culture. Mission-
essential programs with executable strategies, regarding the 
technology, design, test, and overall cost, must win the budget 
battles. Tough choices will need to be made about specific weapon 
systems. Key stakeholders from the military services to industry to 
the Congress will have to play a constructive role in this process. 

GAO has noticed progress on new programs. For example, since 2006, 
programs entering system development have done so with higher levels 
of technology maturity, a key indicator of program success. 
Additionally, in our last comprehensive review of 47 major acquisition 
programs, there were a few modest indications of improvement within 
the portfolio from 2007 to 2008, such as the fact that the total 
percentage of programs with 25 percent or more increases in program 
unit costs decreased by a few percentage points. 

DOD still has work to do in this area; there are ample opportunities 
for reform and improvement that can yield tangible results in the near-
term and free up resources. For a start, DOD should continue to review 
existing and planned programs to: 

* determine the right mix of programs to invest in by making better 
decisions as to which programs should be pursued or not pursued given 
evolving mission needs and both existing and expected funding, 

* ensure that programs are executable by matching requirements with 
resources and locking in those requirements, and, 

* make it clear that programs will then be executed based on actual 
knowledge and mature technology, and not assumptions that are often 
overly optimistic, and that program managers and senior leaders will 
be held responsible for expected results. 

Inventory management: 

Improving DOD's approach to inventory management is another area with 
ample opportunities. Reform could yield significant savings now, and 
free up resources for other priorities. For example, DOD officials 
have estimated that the level of investment in the department's supply 
chains is more than $150 billion a year, and the value of its spare 
part inventories has grown by tens of billions of dollars in recent 
years. Yet, the department continues to have substantial amounts of 
secondary inventory that are in excess to requirements. For example, 
in its last review of the Air Force's inventory, GAO reported that 
more than half of its secondary inventory, valued at about $31 
billion, was not needed to support required inventory levels from 2002 
through 2005. 

More recently, in our review of the Navy's secondary inventory, we 
found that, on average for fiscal years 2004 through 2007, about $11 
billion, or around 60 percent, of the total annual inventory value of 
$18.7 billion was needed to meet current requirements, but $7.5 
billion, or about 40 percent, exceeded current requirements. The graph 
explains, by fiscal year, the dollar amount of inventory that met and 
exceeded current requirements. 

Figure: Navy Secondary Inventory Meeting and Exceeding Current 
Requirements (Fiscal Years 2004-2007) 

[Refer to PDF for image: stacked vertical bar graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Current requirements: $11.9 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $7.8 billion; 
Total: $19.7 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Current requirements: $11.8 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $7.9 billion; 
Total: $19.7 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Current requirements: $11.3 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $7.4 billion; 
Total: $18.7 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Current requirements: $10.0 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $6.8 billion; 
Total: $16.8 billion. 

Source: GAO analysis of Navy data. 
[End of figure] 

The Army is also retaining too much inventory that is not needed to 
meet requirements. Our review of the Army's secondary inventory showed 
that, on average, about $12.7 billion, or about 78 percent, of the 
total annual inventory value of $16.3 billion was needed to meet 
current requirements, whereas $3.6 billion, or around 22 percent, 
exceeded current requirements.[Footnote 2] Similar to the Navy, this 
graph illustrates the Army's trend of retaining excess inventory has 
remained relatively stable from fiscal years 2004 through 2007. 

Figure: Army Secondary Inventory Meeting and Exceeding Current 
Requirements, (Fiscal Years 2004-2007): 

[Refer to PDF for image: stacked vertical bar graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Current requirements: $11.2 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $2.9 billion; 
Total: $14.1 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Current requirements: $13.7 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $3.4 billion; 
Total: $17.1 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Current requirements: $13.6 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $3.9 billion; 
Total: $17.5 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Current requirements: $12.1 billion; 
Beyond current requirements: $4.4 billion; 
Total: $16.5 billion. 

Source: GAO analysis of Army data. 

Note: Values are expressed in constant fiscal year 2007 dollars. 
Analysis includes AMCOM- and TACOM-managed items. 

[End of figure] 

A major cause for the accumulation in excess inventories is weaknesses 
in the military services' approach to forecasting demand as well as a 
lack of metrics and targets focusing on the cost efficiency of 
inventory management. More effective processes that identify and 
manage acquisition lead times are of critical importance to 
maintaining cost-effective inventories, budgeting, and having materiel 
available when it is needed. Overestimates and underestimates of 
acquisition lead time contribute to inefficient use of funds and 
potential shortages or excesses of spare parts. 

The Department can strengthen the accountability and management of its 
secondary inventory by changing inventory management policies and 
practices that contribute to excess inventories For example, we have 
recommended that the services evaluate why they experience decreases 
in demand for supplies, which contribute to having excess inventories; 
determine what actions are needed to better forecast demand; and take 
steps to implement these actions. Furthermore, we have made 
recommendations to develop performance goals and metrics to assess and 
track the cost efficiency of the services' inventory management 
practices and to provide for a greater oversight role to the service 
chief management officers for improving inventory management. Lastly, 
DOD needs to implement effective processes to identify or manage 
acquisition lead times in order to maintain cost-effective 
inventories, budget wisely, and have materiel available when needed. 
Taking steps such as these to transform the way in which DOD manages 
its supply chain and inventory supplies will result in better mission-
essential support to the warfighter and will free up resources wasted 
or tied up in unneeded spare parts for higher priority needs. 

DOD has generally concurred with our recommended actions and has taken 
some steps to improve inventory management. For example, the Air Force 
has made some needed policy changes, and the Army has directed that 
more up-to-date operational information be provided to inventory 
managers so they can make more informed purchase decisions. 
Furthermore, we understand that the Office of the Secretary of Defense 
has initiated a study to develop options for improving demand 
forecasting of spare parts. 

Recently, the Congress has also shown increased interest in reforming 
DOD's inventory management practices. For example, the House, as part 
of its report accompanying the fiscal year 2010 National Defense 
Authorization Act, encouraged DOD to improve its ability to forecast 
demand by adopting an advanced modeling and simulation methodology 
that incorporates factors influencing demand, such as time, usage, 
aging of parts, origin of critical parts, and maintenance, and 
logistics support. Similarly, the conference report accompanying the 
Act called for DOD to submit a comprehensive plan for improving its 
overall inventory management practices, from improving demand 
forecasting to reducing current excess inventory stocks. 

Contract management: 

DOD's management of contracts for goods and services, and the use of 
contractors in general, is another area that needs greater scrutiny 
and offers potential for saving money. Unfortunately, DOD's contracts 
have not always led to the desired outcomes and it is not always clear 
that DOD has been using sound business practices to acquire goods and 
services. On a positive note, the Secretary of Defense and other 
senior leaders have acknowledged these weaknesses and the need for 
reform, which has begun to prompt action within the Department. 

Taking deliberate action now is critical because DOD has become 
reliant on contractors to meet critical missions, including those 
related to ongoing operations, and to support acquisition functions. 
For example, DOD reported that, as of the second quarter of 2009, over 
200,000 contractor personnel were working in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
[Footnote 3] To put the level of contracting activity into 
perspective, between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, DOD obligations on 
contracts when measured in real terms have more than doubled to over 
$387 billion in total, and to more than $200 billion just for 
services. At the same time, DOD's acquisition workforce, responsible 
for contract management, has not similarly grown. In fact, during that 
same time period, DOD's contracting career field grew by only about 1 
percent. The graph below clearly illustrates the problem that the size 
of the contracting workforce has not kept pace with level of 
contracting activity. 

Figure: Changes in DOD's Contract Contracting Work Fiscal Years 2001 
through 2008: 

Dollars are constant fiscal year 2008 dollars in billions: 

Fiscal year: 2001; 
Services: $92.7 billion; 
Products: $80 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 25.4. 

Fiscal year: 2002; 
Services: $108.3 billion; 
Products: $91.2 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 27.9. 

Fiscal year: 2003; 
Services: $135.5 billion; 
Products: $103.5 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 27. 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Services: $141.9 billion; 
Products: $114.8 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 26.2. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Services: $153.6 billion; 
Products: $132.1 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 26. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Services: $159.4 billion; 
Products: $144.6 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 27.7. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Services: $174.4 billion; 
Products: $160.4 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 26. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Services: $200.9 billion; 
Products: $186.8 billion; 
Workforce in thousands: 25.7. 

Source: GAO analysis, Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, 

[End of figure] 

To its credit, DOD has issued guidance to address contracting 
weaknesses and encourage the use of sound business arrangements. For 
example, consistent with congressional direction and GAO's 
recommendations, DOD established a process for reviewing major 
services acquisitions; issued regulations to better manage its use of 
contracting arrangements that can pose additional risks for the 
government, including time-and-materials contracts and undefinitized 
contracting actions; and has efforts under way to identify and improve 
the skills and capabilities of its workforce. For example, in November 
2008 we reported that DOD has been developing, revising, and 
finalizing new joint policies and guidance on the department's use of 
contractors to support deployed forces and has begun developing 
training programs for personnel that do not work in the acquisition 
field to provide information necessary to operate effectively on 
contingency contracting matters and work with contractors on the 
battlefield.[Footnote 4] 

But there is still a lot to be done. GAO has recommended that DOD (1) 
assess the risks that its increasing reliance on contractors poses, 
(2) determine the appropriate mix of contractor, civilian, and 
military personnel in shaping its total force for the future, 
including the role and use of contractors to support deployed forces, 
and (3) ensure that it maintains an acquisition workforce that is 
adequately sized, trained, and equipped, so that it can effectively 
plan, negotiate, award, and manage the range of contracts needed to 
meet the department's needs.[Footnote 5] In addition, because DOD has 
paid billions in award and incentive fees to contractors regardless of 
acquisition outcomes, GAO has also recommended ways that DOD can 
continue to strengthen the link between contractor monetary 
incentives, such as award and incentive fees, and acquisition 
outcomes, which has started to show positive returns. Lastly, we 
believe DOD should continue to focus attention on higher risk 
contracting strategies, such as the use of time-and-materials 
contracts and undefinitized contract actions, to ensure effective 
management of these approaches. Such efforts would also be consistent 
with recent direction from the Administration to reduce the use of 
high risk contracting strategies. 

These critical contracting reforms, if successfully implemented, 
should strengthen the credibility of DOD's contracting processes. This 
will not only help ensure that desired outcomes are achieved, but will 
also enhance the return on the significant investments of taxpayer 
dollars for the contracting of goods and services. 

Financial management: 

DOD must have more reliable financial information to help achieve 
needed reforms. While DOD represents a big share of the federal 
budget, it is one of the few federal entities that cannot accurately 
account for its spending or assets. It is one of only 3 entities in 
the entire government that cannot pass the test of an independent 
audit. Without accurate financial information, DOD
is severely hampered in its ability to make sound budgetary and 
programmatic decisions, monitor trends, make adjustments to improve 
performance, and reduce operating costs or maximize the use of 

Since the first financial statement audit was attempted at DOD nearly 
20 years ago, GAO has consistently called for actions to address 
weaknesses in DOD financial management.[Footnote 6] DOD has launched 
several reform efforts over the years, but these have met with little 
success. Continued financial management and related deficiencies 
hinder DOD's ability to control costs, ensure basic accountability, 
anticipate future costs and claims on the budget, measure performance, 
and maintain control over funds. Problems with asset accountability 
further complicate critical functions, such as supporting the current 
plans to withdraw troops and equipment from Iraq. 

DOD's new comptroller hopes to increase the program's chances for 
success by improving budgetary information and asset accountability. 
As shown in this slide, the emphasis will be on two areas. First, 
strengthening information and processes supporting the Department's 
Statements of Budgetary Resources. Second, verifying the existence and 
completeness of mission critical assets, from weapons systems to real 
property to general equipment. 

Current Focus of DODís Financial Management Efforts: 

* Improve budgetary information and asset availability: 

- Strengthen information and processes, and achieve an auditable 
Statement of Budgetary Resources; 

- Verify the existence and completeness of mission critical assets; 

- Components must ensure records accurately capture the number of each 
type of weapon system, real property, inventory, and operating 
materials and supplies. 

Budgetary and asset-accountability information is widely used by DOD 
managers at all levels, so its reliability is vital to daily 
operations and management. The Marine Corps has just begun an audit of 
its fiscal year 2010 Statement of Budgetary Resources, and DOD is 
treating this as a test case. If the Marine Corps audit is successful, 
it will be used as a model for the other services. 

We and the comptroller agree that DOD's current financial management 
priorities are necessary and critical to improving accountability and 
information for operations. When it comes to assets, DOD certainly 
needs to provide accountability over the existence and completeness of 
those items. GAO believes it may be worthwhile to revisit the question 
of how DOD reports assets in its financial statements because the 
traditional financial reporting model was not designed to address the 
unique aspects of military assets. 

DOD components are developing detailed plans to support efforts to 
improve financial management in budgetary reporting and related 
operational processes and accountability for asset existence and 
completion. Based on what we have seen of the plan so far, we believe 
this prioritization is a reasonable approach for now. A consistent 
focus may increase the Department's ability to show incremental 
progress toward achieving auditability in the short term. In response 
to GAO's recommendations, the department has also put in place a 
process to improve standardization and comparability across 
components. The success of this process will depend on top management 
support, as well as high-quality planning and effective implementation 
at all levels. 

Overall, we are encouraged by DOD's renewed attempt to improve its 
financial management and achieve accountability for its expenses and 
assets. GAO will continue to monitor progress and provide feedback on 
the status of those efforts. Among other things, we will seek to 
determine the reasonableness of efforts to achieve stated objectives 
and identify any gaps in strategic planning and coordination among the 
components. We will also track the progress of DOD's remediation plans 
for the remaining financial management areas. At some point down the 
road, I expect GAO and others will become involved in discussions 
about how DOD should be recording assets for financial statement 

Financial management improvement efforts are pivotal to achieving 
broader business transformation goals. Accurate, timely, and useful 
financial management information is essential for sound management 
analysis, decision making, and reporting. 

Opportunities for Strengthening Interagency Collaboration: 

DOD and other national security agencies can and must work more 
collaboratively together to strengthen the interagency process and 
advance U.S. national security efforts. The National Defense 
University plays in significant role in strengthening interagency 
partnerships in the national security community In bringing agency 
personnel together through its various programs and events, the 
University offers a valuable forum for the national security community 
to network and build relationships, as well as to learn more about the 
organizational structures, processes, and other aspects of their 
respective agencies. 

As the events of September 11, 2001, and other terrorist attacks have 
made clear, the challenges to national security have expanded 
significantly beyond the traditional state-based threats of the Cold 
War era to unconventional threats from nonstate actors. The new 
threats are diffuse and ambiguous and include terrorist threats from 
extremist groups, cyber attacks, drug trafficking, infectious 
diseases, and energy threats. They arise from multiple sources and are 
interrelated, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for any 
single agency to effectively address them alone. In that sense, 
effective collaboration among multiple agencies and across federal, 
state, and local governments as well as with internal partners is 

Not only have the threats evolved, but so have the agencies involved 
in national security issues. Beyond the traditional agencies of the 
Departments of Defense and State, and the U.S. Agency for 
International Development, the Departments of Homeland Security, 
Energy, Justice, the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, and Health and 
Human Services are now a bigger part of the equation. What has not yet 
evolved are the mechanisms that agencies use to coordinate national 
security activities such as developing overarching strategies to guide 
planning and execution of missions, or sharing and integrating 
national security information across agencies. In the absence of 
effective mechanisms, collaboration suffers, and in some cases, can be 
a hindrance to achieving national security objectives. 

It is encouraging that Congress is focused on this topic and has 
recently taken steps to strengthen interagency collaboration for 
national security issues. For example, in the fiscal year 2008 
National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Secretary of 
Defense to submit a plan to improve and reform DOD's participation in 
and contribution to the interagency coordination process on national 
security issues. Similarly, in the fiscal year 2009 National Defense 
Authorization Act, Congress gave authority to the Secretaries of 
Defense and State and the Administrator of AID to jointly establish an 
advisory panel to advise, review, and make recommendations on ways to 
improve coordination among the agencies on national security issues, 
including reviewing their respective roles and responsibilities. 

Based on GAO's work, along with others, we have identified a number of 
challenges that hinder the ability of agencies to improve coordination 
mechanisms and work collaboratively in responding to national security 
issues.[Footnote 7] As the following graphic shows, we have 
highlighted four specific areas for the Congress and administration, 
including some thoughts on actions that agencies can take to enhance 
Opportunities for Strengthening Interagency Collaboration: 
* Developing and implementing overarching, integrated strategies to 
achieve national security objectives; 

* Formalizing coordination mechanisms to overcome organizational 

* Developing a well-trained workforce; 

* Sharing and integrating national security information across 

First, developing and implementing overarching, integrated strategies. 
Leadership and strategic direction is required as the foundation for 
collaboration. Defining organizational roles and responsibilities and 
mechanisms for coordination can help agencies clarify who will lead or 
participate in which activities and how decisions will be made. It can 
also help them organize their individual and joint efforts, and 
address how conflicts would be resolved. Although some U.S. agencies 
have developed or updated overarching strategies on national security-
related issues, GAO's work has identified some cases where U.S. 
efforts have been hindered by the lack of information on roles and 
responsibilities of organizations involved or the lack of mechanisms 
to coordinate their efforts. For example, since 2005, multiple U.S. 
agencies, including the State Department, AID, and DOD, led separate 
efforts to improve the capacity of Iraq's ministries to govern, 
without overarching direction from a lead entity to integrate their 
efforts. Since that time, we have testified and reported that the lack 
of an overarching strategy contributed to U.S. efforts not meeting the 
goal for key Iraqi ministries to develop the capacity to effectively 
govern and assume increasing responsibility for operating, 
maintaining, and further investing in reconstruction projects.
[Footnote 8] 

Second, formalizing coordination mechanisms to overcome organizational 
differences. Agencies have different organizational structures, 
planning processes, and funding sources to plan for and conduct their 
national security activities, which can hinder interagency 
collaboration. This can result in a patchwork of activities that waste 
scarce funds and limit the overall effectiveness of federal efforts. 
For example, agencies involved in national security activities define 
and organize their regions differently. A good example involves DOD's 
regional combatant commands and the State Department's regional 
bureaus which are aligned differently in terms of the geographic areas 
they cover. As a result of differing structures and areas of coverage, 
coordination becomes more challenging and the potential for gaps and 
overlaps in policy implementation is greater. Moreover, funding for 
national security activities is budgeted for and appropriated by 
agency, rather than by functional area (such as national security), 
resulting in budget requests and congressional appropriations that 
tend to reflect individual agency concerns. 

Given the differences among agencies, developing adequate coordination 
mechanisms is critical to achieving integrated approaches. While, in 
some cases, agencies have established effective mechanisms, in others, 
challenges remain For example, DOD has taken some steps to involve 
other agencies in its strategic planning processes. As we reported in 
February 2009, DOD's U.S. Africa Command was one of the first 
combatant commands to employ DOD's new planning approach, which called 
for collaboration among federal agencies to ensure activities are 
integrated and synchronized in pursuit of common goals. More 
specifically, in developing its theater campaign plan, the command met 
with 16 agencies at the beginning of its planning process to gain 
interagency input on its plan. While the process has yet to mature, we 
believe involving other agencies at the beginning may result in a 
better informed plan for DOD's activities in Africa. 

We have also seen instances in which mechanisms are not formalized or 
fully utilized. For example, we found that collaboration between DOD's 
Northern Command and an interagency planning team on the development 
of the command's homeland defense plan was largely based on the 
dedicated personalities involved and informal meetings. Without 
formalizing and institutionalizing the interagency planning structure, 
we concluded efforts to coordinate may not continue when personnel 
move on to their next assignments. 

Third, developing a well-trained workforce. Collaborative approaches 
to national security require a well-trained workforce with the right 
number of people with the right skills and experience to integrate the 
government's diverse capabilities and resources, but some federal 
government agencies lack the personnel capacity to fully participate 
in interagency activities. Moreover, some agencies do not have the 
necessary capabilities to support their national security roles and 
responsibilities. For example, we reported that, as of September 2009, 
31 percent of State's generalist and specialists in language-
designated positions did not meet the language requirements for their 
position, an increase from 29 percent in 2005. Also, agencies' 
personnel systems do not always provide positive incentives because 
interagency assignments are often not considered to be career 
enhancing or recognized in performance management systems. Various 
tools can be useful in helping agencies to improve their ability to 
more fully participate in collaboration activities. For example, 
increasing training opportunities can help personnel develop the 
skills and understanding of other agencies' capabilities. The National 
Defense University plays an important role and makes a valuable 
contribution in this area. Also, focusing on strategic workforce 
planning can support agencies' efforts to secure the personnel 
resources needed to collaborate in interagency missions. 

Finally, sharing and integrating national security information across 
agencies. Information is a crucial tool in national security and its 
timely dissemination is critical for maintaining national security. 
More than 8 years after 9/11, federal, state, and local governments 
and private-sector partners are making progress in sharing terrorism-
related information. For example, we reported in October 2007 that 
most states and many local governments had established fusion centers 
collaborative efforts to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to 
criminal and terrorist activity to address gaps in information 
sharing. However, agencies do not always share relevant information 
with their national security partners due to a lack of clear 
guidelines for sharing information and security clearance issues. For 
example, GAO found that non-DOD personnel could not access some DOD 
planning documents or participate in planning sessions because they 
may not have had the proper security clearances. Moreover, because of 
concerns about agencies' ability to protect shared information or use 
that information properly, other agencies and private-sector partners 
are sometimes hesitant to share information. For example, we have 
reported that Department of Homeland Security officials expressed 
concerns about sharing terrorism-related information with state and 
local partners because such information had occasionally been posted 
on public Internet sites or otherwise compromised. To facilitate 
information sharing, it is important to establish clear guidelines, 
agreements, and procedures that govern key aspects, such as how 
information will be communicated, who will participate in interagency 
information sharing efforts, and how information will be protected. 

Concluding Remarks: 

In closing, I want to reiterate that DOD has a real opportunity in the 
days ahead to set a new course for the future, take concrete steps to 
correct long-standing problems, and achieve meaningful results that 
can better position the Department to respond to changing economic 
conditions and future threats. Given our nation's growing fiscal and 
other challenges, the Department cannot afford to delay addressing 
inefficiencies in its business operations and freeing up resources for 
higher priorities. The old ways of doing business, without enough 
attention to cost or outcome, are truly unsustainable. 

In many areas, DOD has untapped potential to achieve tangible and 
sustainable outcomes that will ultimately provide better support to 
the warfighter. Success will require strong leadership that sets the 
tone, takes decisive action, and assumes accountability for results. 
Success will also depend on sound plans that set clear priorities and 
measurable goals as well as results-oriented performance measures that 
can be used to gauge progress and make adjustments. Truly, DOD will 
need to approach the transformation of its business operations with 
the same level of intensity as it plans and carries out its military 
operations. And all of the national security agencies will need to 
make concerted efforts to forge strong and collaborative partnerships, 
and seek coordinated solutions that leverage the expertise and 
capabilities across the community. This too will take committed and 
effective leadership from all levels of an organization to overcome 
the many barriers to working across agency boundaries. Without people 
willing to make it happen, transformation and integration is just 
talk. There are countless ways that each of you, as future leaders, 
can make a real difference in how DOD does business, and in how the 
interagency process works. 

It has been a pleasure to speak to you today. I wish you the best in 
your future endeavors. 

[End of presentation] 


[1] GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon 
Programs, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 2009. 

[2] Our analysis included secondary inventory from the U.S. Army 
Aviation and Missile Lifecycle and Management Command and the U.S. 
Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, but did not include the 
Army's Communication and Electronics Command because the information 
system used to manage secondary inventory was not able to provide item-
specific data for the period of our review. 

[3] GAO, Contingency Contracting: DOD, State, and USAID Continue to 
Face Challenges in Tracking Contractor Personnel and Contracts in Iraq 
and Afghanistan, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 1, 2009). 

[4] GAO, Contract Management: DOD Developed Draft Guidance for 
Operational Contract Support but Has Not Met All Legislative 
Requirements, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 20, 2008). 

[5] GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Fundamental Changes Are Needed to 
Improve Weapon Program Outcomes, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 25, 
2008) and GAO, A Knowledge-Based Funding Approach Could Improve Major 
Weapon System Program Outcomes, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: July 2, 

[6] GAO, Defense Business Transformation: A Full-time Chief Management 
Officer with a Term Appointment Is Needed at DOD to Maintain 
Continuity of Effort and Achieve Sustainable Success, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct, 16, 

[7] GAO, Interagency Collaboration: Key Issues for Congressional 
Oversight of National Security Strategies, Organizations, Workforce, 
and Information Sharing, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 25, 

[8] GAO, Interagency Collaboration: Key Issues for Congressional 
Oversight of National Security Strategies, Organizations, Workforce, 
and Information Sharing, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 25, 

[End of section]