Leaders from each armed service and the Defense Department testified Sept. 14 to the House Armed Services Committee about the DOD’s efforts to become auditable by 2014.
The original auditable date was 2017, but Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta accelerated that goal in late 2011 by setting a DOD-wide 2014 deadline for audit readiness.
“We remain fully committed to meeting our audit goals, and we’re reasonably confident that we will meet those goals and the timeframes that have been established by us,” said Robert Hale, undersecretary of defense (comptroller).
“The Air Force is faithfully committed to maintaining the public’s trust in our stewardship of taxpayer dollars and developing a culture that values efficiency in resource stewardship,” said Marilyn Thomas, Air Force principal deputy assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller. “Due to the commitment of leadership and to the dedication of professionals across the Air Force, we have made significant progress today.”
Hale said meeting these goals is important for many factors, but the most important reason is to maintain public confidence.
“I don’t think we’ll ever convince the American public, and I don’t think we’ll convince Congress, that we’re good stewards of their funds unless we can pass an audit test,” said Hale.
He pointed out that he was cautiously optimistic, knowing that each service faces several challenges to meet the auditability deadline.
The Air Force still faces challenges including the need to improve legacy systems in order to achieve the accelerated timeline, educating Airmen on how they contribute to audit readiness, and building the skills and experience required to achieve and maintain audit readiness in all resource management specialties, Thomas said.
Another hurdle facing all the services, Hale said, is the difficulties involved in getting a beginning balance for DOD programs such as aircraft and ship acquisitions, which have been ongoing for more than a few years.
“Some of these transactions and beginning balances can go back ten years or more,” said Hale. The plan moving forward is to begin with this year’s current resources and build better documentation going forward. But he emphasized the fact that even though DOD financial statements have not been audited in the past, “we still know where we’re spending taxpayer dollars. If that weren’t the case, you’d see massive problems with missed payments and mission failures.”
Texas Rep. Michael Conaway asked Hale and the service members to convey the committee’s heartfelt thanks to all the people out there doing the “heavy-lifting” to get the DOD auditable.
“I, for one, know how hard it is (and) how difficult it is,” said Conaway. He said the scope of this project is “simply stunning once you begin to look at it.”
“Thank you so very much for what you have done already, and (we’re) looking forward to success of getting this thing done,” said the representative.