Proposed law to shed sunlight on DOD budget

A group of legislators is clamoring to hold the Defense Department more financially accountable and force it to conduct a full, successful audit – something the agency and its components so far have failed to do, according to a senator.

“By failing to pass an audit, the Pentagon has undermined our national security,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-.Okla.). “When the Pentagon can’t tell Congress, or itself, how it is spending money good programs face cuts along with wasteful programs, which is the situation in which we find ourselves today under sequestration.”

Introduced by lead sponsor Coburn and eight cosponsors, the bipartisan Audit the Pentagon Act would create new incentives and enforcement mechanisms to force the Pentagon to review its financial management, according to the office of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We need to make sure that we’re using our limited resources in the best way possible to support the men and women in uniform,” said Manchin, one of the cosponsors. “One of best ways to do that is to shed light on the Department of Defense budget, without jeopardizing our national security secrets.”

First, the legislation would grant the Pentagon more power to reprogram funds without approval from Congress. Second, the Pentagon would also notify Congress about which reports are unnecessary, with the idea that it would save taxpayers dollars by slashing red tape.

The proposal would also establish new accountability mechanisms, including creating a chief management officer role with the responsibility to fix the Pentagon’s finances and IT issues. Also, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service would be transferred to Treasury Department in the event the Pentagon doesn’t pass an audit.

Bill cosponsor, Sen.  Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), said government spending must be scrutinized, particularly as the threat looms for the massive across-the board budget reductions slated to take effect early 2013.

“Every wasted defense dollar is a dollar we deprive our warfighters who protect our country," she said. "Furthermore, if defense sequestration cuts take effect in January, it will be even more critical for the Department of Defense to have reliable financial data."

Other cosponsors include Scott Brown (R-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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