Military Base Closures:

Unexpended Funds Raise Questions About Fiscal Year 2001 Funding Needs

NSIAD-00-170: Published: Jul 7, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 2000.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) base closure accounts and its budget request for base closure activities, focusing on: (1) how trends in base realignment and closure appropriations in recent years and estimates for future years compare to the fiscal year (FY) 2001 budget request; and (2) unliquidated obligations and unobligated balances from prior years' appropriations and the extent to which DOD considered these balances and obligations in preparing the FY 2001 budget request.

GAO noted that: (1) appropriations for the 1990 base closure account have declined steadily since 1996 as more base closure and realignment actions have been completed; (2) however, for FY 2001, DOD is requesting about $1.2 billion in new budget authority, significantly more than last year's appropriation of about $700 million; (3) a larger, $1.6-billion budget request was initially planned for FY 2001, but the final $1.2-billion request resulted from several downward adjustments made as the budget request was being developed; (4) of particular note was a decision by DOD officials to reduce the planning estimate for FY 2001 by $363 million because they did not believe the larger amount could be reasonably executed in FY 2001; (5) additional reductions were made primarily because prior years' environmental cleanup funds were being expended at a slower pace than anticipated; (6) at the time the FY 2001 budget estimate was being developed, DOD had about $500 million in reported unobligated balances from previous years' appropriations in the 1990 account, about $114 million of which was appropriated in FY 1998 or earlier; (7) additionally, it had $1.6 billion in reported unliquidated obligations from prior appropriations in the 1990 account, of which about $115 million were appropriated in 1995 or earlier; (8) the majority of the $115 million unliquidated funds resulted from environmental cleanup activities that were carried out more slowly than planned; (9) available data indicate that only the Navy provided documentation that it had considered unobligated and unliquidated balances in formulating its portion of the budget request; (10) in finalizing the FY 2001 budget request, Defense Comptroller officials initially proposed reductions of over $200 million because of concerns over slow budget execution and large amounts of unliquidated obligations, but only $53.4 million of these proposed reductions were ultimately approved; and (11) the Army and the Air Force have recently initiated actions to reexamine their prior years' unobligated and unliquidated balances.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Acting on a matter for Congressional consideration included in GAO briefings and the subject report, Congress reduced the Department of Defense's fiscal year 2001 budget request for Base Realignment and Closure by $150 million.

    Matter: In appropriating base realignment and closure funds for FY 2001, Congress may wish to take into consideration the large balances of unexpended funds, particularly in DOD's environmental sub-accounts, and DOD's limited action in taking into account the potential availability of some of these funds to offset its 2001 budget request.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to a DOD Comptroller official responsible for base realignment and closure budget requests, each of the military services took some action to review base realignment and closure of unliquidated balances, closing out completed contracts, identifying potentially idle funds, and deobligating funds where appropriate. For example, the Naval Audit Service completed a detail review of base realignment and closure funding balances for the Navy. Where appropriate, the Navy deobligated unneeded funds and used them to pay for other base realignment and closure costs. According to the DOD official, the other military services completed a similar review of their base realignment and closure funding balances.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require that the services perform complete and timely reviews of all base realignment and closure unliquidated balances, close out completed contracts, identify potentially idle funds, deobligate funds where appropriate, and consider the availability of these funds in formulating new budget requests.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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