GAO examined the environmental cleanup costs of ongoing operations of the Department of Defense (DOD). These include general property, plant, and equipment facilities or other assets that are being operated or are in use at DOD installations. GAO found that DOD has not developed policies, procedures, and methodologies to ensure that cleanup costs required for all of its ongoing and inactive or closed operations are identified, consistently estimated, and appropriately reported. As a result, DOD's financial statements and environmental reports continue to underreport environmental liabilities and related long-term budgetary needs. The military installations GAO visited had a total of 221 sites with estimated cleanup costs of $259 million. Of these, only 45 sites with estimated cleanup costs of $61 million were being reported for the Defense Environmental Restoration Program Annual Report to Congress, and only that amount was likely included in DOD's financial statements. GAO found DOD was not reporting 149 sites related to ongoing operations with estimated cleanup costs of $91 million and 27 inactive and closed operations with estimated cleanup costs of $107 million. The environmental offices at the six installations GAO visited had comprehensive records for the installation sites subject to cleanup requirements. Although these records were reasonably accurate, the records used to maintain accountability over related land, buildings, and structures were significantly flawed. If properly maintained, the real property records should play a significant role in ensuring the accuracy of environmental site records.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should designate a focal point with the appropriate authority to oversee and manage the reporting of DOD's liability for the cleanup of all ongoing and inactive/closed operations.|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should require the DOD Comptroller to revise the Financial Management Regulation (FMR) to include (1) an expanded definition of cleanup, consistent with Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards No. 6, that includes closure/postclosure activities, and (2) guidance that addresses all restoration/cleanup liabilities, regardless of funding source or type of operation, in accordance with federal accounting standards.|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should require the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to ensure that (1) existing errors in real property records are corrected, and (2) real property and environmental site records are periodically reconciled.|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should require the designated focal point to work with the appropriate DOD organizations to develop guidance and procedures to implement the revised FMR requirements, to include the following: (1) standardized and validated methodologies for estimating cleanup costs, and (2) a comprehensive, controlled process to systematically capture, summarize, maintain, and report the cleanup sites and costs resulting from all operations known to result in hazardous waste.|