The Pentagon Promised To Save $13 Billion, But Won’t Be Able To Prove It

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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The Department of Defense (DOD) promised to save $13.1 billion in efficiency initiatives by 2021, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Pentagon’s estimate is not reliable.

The Pentagon’s plan for saving the money is unreliable because the documentation “was not sufficiently detailed to support the estimate,” the GAO said in a report released Monday.

Auditors wouldn’t be able to track the amount saved because the Pentagon doesn’t have a baseline for the spending. The documentation “for the estimated cost savings was a summary table listing funding and personnel reductions allocated to various organizations and included a statement that the reductions listed were ‘not-auditable’ because the baseline for the reductions had not been established, among other reasons,” the GAO said.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 required that the DOD “implement a plan to achieve no less than $10 billion in cost savings from headquarter, administrative, and support activities” by 2019. The department has not yet identified those activities, officials told the GAO.

In reducing costs of major military headquarters, the DOD did not document how it would achieve 75 percent of the cost savings, but 25 percent of the savings would come from simplifying the management structure, “reducing staff through attrition and reassignments,” the GAO said.

“As a result, neither DOD nor Congress will be able to monitor progress and ensure the achievement of the required cost savings,” the report concluded.

The Pentagon agreed with the GAO’s recommendation to improve the estimates, but did not explain how it would make the documentation better.

The Defense Department’s books have been subject of criticism from lawmakers and auditors for years, and to date it is the only agency that still hasn’t completed an agency-wide audit. (RELATED: The Pentagon Says It Will Be Ready For An Audit By September)

“This inability to account for expenditures does a disservice to the American taxpayer and threatens our national security,” Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst wrote in a May letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“The 25-year push to audit the books is stuck at a roadblock,” Grassley said during a June 11 budget hearing. “Billions of dollars have been spent trying to solve the root cause problem, but the fix is nowhere in sight. And until it is, auditing the books will remain an elusive goal.”

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