Defense needs COO, comptroller says

The Defense Department should create a new position — similar to a chief operating officer — to oversee the daily affairs of the department and to keep its financial management modernization program on track, the U.S. comptroller general told a House subcommittee.

DOD is moving in the right direction in terms of developing a financial management plan and architecture, but Comptroller General David Walker said there needs to be constant pressure to ensure progress is maintained. DOD should create a new position to ensure the massive agency stays on track, Walker testified April 8 before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee.

"DOD needs to think seriously about creating a chief operating officer or chief administrative officer, focusing on the day-to-day operations of the department," he said. The position "would help not just in financial management, but would help sustain the attention and focus of DOD across a range of management issues."

DOD gets an "A" grade in terms of fighting and winning armed conflicts, Walker said. "But they get a [grade of] D on economics, efficiency and accountability."

Walker suggested that the position be appointed by the administration and approved by the Senate and last at least seven years. It would be imperative that one individual could oversee the department for a period that spans administrations, he said. It is also important that the position be filled by someone with a performance-based contract, making them accountable for the results of their work.

The recommendation is not at all a slight on DOD Comptroller Dov Zakheim, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Walker said, "but they've got other things that they've got to do," he said. "This will take a while and we can't keep changing the players."

Linda Springer, controller of the Office of Management and Budget, said if DOD were to create the new position, it would need to ensure that the person had the ability to follow through for the length of the term. "I haven't actually reviewed the position, but the objective should be to ensure that whoever would be appointed would have the right skill set to get the job done," she said.

Walker said he has had conversations with OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. and Rumsfeld about the creation of the new position. DOD officials are evaluating the recommendation.

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