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Highlights

Since September 11, 2001, Congress has provided about $808 billion to the Department of Defense (DOD) for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) in addition to funding in DOD's base budget. Prior GAO reports have found DOD's reported GWOT cost data unreliable and found problems with transparency over certain costs. In response, DOD has made several changes to its cost-reporting procedures. Congress has shown interest in increasing the transparency of DOD's cost reporting and funding requests for GWOT. Under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative, GAO assessed (1) DOD's progress in improving the accuracy and reliability of its GWOT cost reporting, and (2) DOD's methodology for reporting GWOT costs by contingency operation. For this engagement, GAO analyzed GWOT cost data and applicable guidance, as well as DOD's corrective actions.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. In order to improve the transparency and reliability of DOD's reported obligations for GWOT by contingency operation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to develop a plan and timetable for evaluating whether expenses not directly attributable to specific GWOT contingency operations are incremental costs and should continue to be funded outside of DOD's base budget.
Closed - Implemented
In February 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in concert with the Department of Defense (DOD), issued new criteria specifying which costs formerly considered overseas contingency operations (formerly known as the Global War on Terrorism) costs should be included in the baseline budget or the overseas contingency operation budgets. DOD has continued to work with OMB to refine this criteria, which was first used to develop DOD's fiscal year 2010 baseline budget. This war criteria provides the decision framework for determining costs that should be in the base budget and the incremental costs that should be in the overseas contingency operations budget. Working with OMB, DOD has made some progress with incorporating requirements previously funded in its overseas contingency operations budget, and considered to have an enduring nature, into its base budget.
Department of Defense 2. In order to improve the transparency and reliability of DOD's reported obligations for GWOT by contingency operation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to ensure DOD components establish an auditable and documented methodology for determining what portion of GWOT costs is attributable to Operation Iraqi Freedom versus Operation Enduring Freedom when actual costs are not available.
Closed - Implemented
In its comments on the draft report, the Department of Defense (DOD) stated that it intended to strengthen the guidance in the department's Financial Management Regulation 7000.14, Volume 12, Chapter 23: Contingency Operations, to require an annual review of the methodologies used to allocate costs by operation. The planned guidance would require DOD components to establish annual cost of war reporting procedures that detail the sources used for reporting obligations and the methodology used for allocating cost by operation. In December 2017, DOD updated the DOD Financial Management Regulation 7000.14, Volume 12, Chapter 23: Contingency Operations, adding guidance on cost reporting and standard operating procedures documentation. Specifically, the revised DOD Financial Management Regulation states each component will develop and publish a Standard Operating Procedure or other supplemental guidance that will cover component specific items for cost reporting; at a minimum, the Standard Operating Procedure should cover data sources and a validation of costs, including an auditable methodology for determining the portion of war-related or other contingency costs are attributable to each contingency operation when actual cost by operation is not available. The action taken by DOD addresses the intent of our recommendation and should help strengthen the process for ensuring components accurately capture contingency related costs.

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