Before we issue reports, we send them to the agencies we've audited for review and comment. For reports containing sensitive or classified information, we also ask the agency to let us know what can or cannot be released publicly. Delays in these reviews can delay the issuance of our reports.
This Q&A report, the first in a series of 4, details the timeliness of DOD's reviews over the past 6 months.
DOD met about half of its review deadlines. When we granted extensions, DOD met about half of the new deadlines. In one case, DOD missed multiple extended deadlines and we took the unusual step of issuing the report without agency comments.
What GAO Found
The Department of Defense (DOD) generally did not meet GAO's deadline for providing agency comments and sensitivity or security reviews, submitting about half of its agency comments and reviews to GAO after the deadline. GAO provides audited agencies with an opportunity to review and comment on draft reports before GAO issues the final report. Additionally, for any reports that may contain controlled unclassified or classified information, GAO requests that the department complete a review for such information and communicate the results of the review in writing.
DOD provided GAO comments on 42 reports from December 23, 2022, to May 15, 2023. While GAO generally provides DOD with 30 days for agency comment, DOD took 34 days, on average. Of the 42 reports, DOD submitted comments for 21 after the 30-day deadline and took an additional 16 days, on average, to submit agency comments on those reports. For one report, DOD took 71 days to provide its comments.
DOD completed 23 reviews—15 sensitivity and 8 security reviews—during the same period. Sensitivity reviews are conducted to identify sensitive information, such as controlled unclassified information. Reviews for classified information, such as information designated as Secret or Top Secret, are generally referred to as security reviews. On average, DOD completed sensitivity reviews in 34 days and security reviews in 31 days—exceeding the 30-day deadline. In two cases, DOD took 60 days to complete its reviews.
Of the 17 reports for which GAO granted an extension to the deadline for submitting comments or reviews, DOD did not meet the extension for eight. For one report, DOD requested multiple extensions but did not meet any of the new deadlines; as a result, GAO had to issue the report without agency comments.
Why GAO Did This Study
Delays in DOD submitting agency comments or the sensitivity/security reviews result in GAO issuing products later than mandated or requested by Congress. In some cases, delays may result in GAO taking the unusual step of issuing reports without DOD comments in order to provide Congress with requested information. The James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 included a provision for GAO to report every 6 months over a 2-year period on the extent to which DOD submitted agency comments and sensitivity or security reviews in a timely manner and in accordance with GAO protocols. This report is the first in a series of four reports on this topic.
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