Officials Announce First DoD-Wide Audit, Call for Budget Certainty
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Dec 07, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Department is starting the first agency-wide financial audit in its history, Pentagon officials announced today.

Defense Department Comptroller David L. Norquist and chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White spoke during the Pentagon news conference, in which they also addressed the possibility of a government shutdown when the continuing resolution that has been keeping the government running expires tomorrow.

Norquist said he received the DoD Office of Inspector General's notification that the financial statement audit begins this month.

Taxpayer Confidence

The audit is massive. It will examine every aspect of the department from personnel to real property to weapons to supplies to bases. Some 2,400 auditors will fan out across the department to conduct it, Pentagon officials said.

"It is important that the Congress and the American people have confidence in DoD's management of every taxpayer dollar," Norquist said.

Audits are necessary to ensure the accuracy of financial information. They also account for property. Officials estimate the department has around $2.4 trillion in assets. "With consistent feedback from auditors, we can focus on improving the processes of our day-to-day work," the comptroller said. "Annual audits also ensure visibility over the quantity and quality of the equipment and supplies our troops use."

The DoD Office of the Inspector General hired independent public accounting firms to conduct audits of individual components – the Army, Navy, Air Force, agencies, activities and more – as well as a departmentwide consolidated audit to summarize all results and conclusions.

"Beginning in 2018, our audits will occur annually, with reports issued Nov. 15," Norquist said.

Looming Shutdown

Norquist also addressed the looming government shutdown. Military personnel will continue to report for duty to ensure the safety of the United States and its citizens, he said. Military and civilian personnel conducting operations around the world will also report, he added.

"Any time we get close to the end of a CR, we automatically go through and update our contingency plans," Norquist said. "And so we've had to do that several times this year."

If a shutdown occurs, military personnel will report to work as normal, but the department cannot pay them until the shutdown ends. Civilian employees – and the department has roughly 700,000 – will be notified before the shutdown what to do. Employees performing an excepted activity – such as law enforcement – will report to work, he said.

"I cannot emphasize too much how destructive a shutdown is," Norquist said. "We've talked before about the importance of maintenance on weapons systems and others, but if it's not an excepted activity, there'll be work stoppage on many of those maintenance functions."

Congress is considering passing a two-week extension of the continuing resolution, which would give the legislators until Dec. 22 to pass a budget. The Defense Department has operated under a continuing resolution for 1,081 days over the past nine years, White noted.

Continuing Resolutions Affect Readiness

"And so, we are optimistic that the Congress will pass a robust and predictable, fully funded [fiscal year 2018] budget," she said. "Nothing has had a greater impact on combat readiness than CRs, ... and at a time where security threats are high, we really do need the predictability in the budget -- certainty that we don't have with CRs."

Continuing resolutions are supposed to be short-term bridges for financing. A long-term CR is disruptive, Norquist said. "Every time ... you add to it, it creates more challenges," he added.

One problem with a CR is there can be no new starts, the comptroller told reporters. "In the administration's budget, we requested additional money for munitions, and so we would like to increase the production of some of those munitions," he said.

"What the CR says is, 'Stop, wait, don't award that contract yet,' which delays when you begin to increase the quantity and the production," he explained, adding that none of this can be fixed until there is a proper budget.


Click here for the related media briefing by Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White and David L. Norquist, Undersecretary of Defense, Comptroller at the Pentagon.

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Acquisitions Chief Details DoD Efforts to Speed, Reform Acquisition Processes
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Dec 07, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Department is charging ahead in using new authorities to streamline, speed up and reform the acquisition system to ensure warfighters get what they need when they need it, the Pentagon's top acquisition official told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told said her office is pushing the responsibility to restore America’s overmatch against any possible foe out to the services.

For the last two years, the national defense authorization acts have given new tools to DoD in an effort to cut through the red tape that often delays acquisitions, hobbles modernization plans and hinders current readiness.

The acts “have provided the direction and the tools for the department to advance the capabilities required to restore our overmatch, speed the rate in which we field these advanced capabilities, and improve the overall affordability of our fighting forces weapons systems,” she said.

All these go to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis’ priority to improve the lethality and readiness of the American military.

Lord, who came to her position after serving as the CEO of Textron Systems, said she wants AT&L to emulate practices used in industry, in effect acting as a very lean corporate office, “enabling the services -- as businesses -- to execute programs they are responsible for. AT&L should be pushing the majority of the work back to the services.”

DoD should focus on prototyping and experimentation, she said, adding that her organization also should develop architectures and standards, interpret law into policy and procedures, and simplify acquisition processes. “Stating it plainly, AT&L needs to be the strategic body with focus across the board driving affordability and accountability, reducing timelines and equipping the services to execute their programs,” she said.

Potential for ‘Significant’ Improvement

On average, Lord said, the department awards 1,800 contracts daily, and 36,000 delivery and task orders. Given that volume, she added, every improvement made has the potential to produce significant results.

Lord also said she believes DoD should be able to speed the award of a contract by as much as 50 percent.

“Some of the ways we intend to do this is to incentivizing contractors to submit responsive proposals in 60 days or less and implementing electronic departmentwide streamlining tools,” she said. Noting that Congress gave the department tools that speed up foreign military sales. Lord added that she would like to see the same authorities used for DoD purchases.

Four of 17 individual awards for excellence in acquisition presented yesterday went to personnel from U.S. Special Operations Command, Lord told the Senate panel. “Our challenge is to take … these silos of excellence and scale them to the big Army, the big Navy and the big Air Force,” she said.

The department also is using rapid hiring authorities to bring in world-class experts in a number of fields, Lord said. These include experts in robotics, artificial intelligence and lasers, she said, as well as new contracting specialists and engineers.

“Reforming and improving the defense acquisition system to create an agile enterprise is a continuing process requiring close partnership across the department and with Congress,” she said. “You have my total commitment to the success of that partnership.”

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