Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: March 12, 2009
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Hearing on the Department of Defense at High Risk: The Recommendations of the Comptroller General
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Department of Defense at High Risk: The Recommendations of the Comptroller General:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our hearing on the Department of Defense (DOD) at High Risk: The Recommendations of the Comptroller General. Today we take a step back from our usual focus on the many trouble spots in a complex and dangerous world, and focus instead on the issue of how well the Department of Defense is doing at the routine business of managing its business operations, finances, investments, and contracts.
“I would note that today’s hearing fulfills one of the committee’s responsibilities under H. Res. 40, the recently enacted Tanner Resolution, which amended House rules to require the standing committees of the House to perform rigorous oversight on potential waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement within their jurisdiction.
“I use the phrase ‘routine business,’ but the truth is that the Department of Defense is almost certainly the largest and most complex organization in the world. Managing such an organization is not for the faint of heart and can never truly be routine. I might add that providing oversight to such an organization is also a significant responsibility.
“So we must thank today’s witness, Mr. Gene Dodaro, the acting Comptroller General of the United States, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which he leads, for performing this task and for the assistance they provide both to this committee and to the Department of Defense on a daily basis.
“For the last nineteen years, the GAO has annually reviewed all of its work on the federal government’s operations, and published a list of those areas presenting the highest risk. Due in large part to the size and complexity of the Department of Defense, DOD has been a significant presence on the list since its inception.
“The Department has not been able to completely eliminate its risk in any of the areas identified by GAO over the years, nor has this committee been able to do so through its legislative or oversight activities. This is not to say, however, that nothing has been done. In fact, a great deal has been done, both administratively and legislatively, to address these serious risks.
“During the 110th Congress, this committee tackled many of the problems identified by GAO. To cite a few, we codified the duties of the Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense, a step recommended by GAO. We also enacted two significant pieces of acquisition reform legislation, the Acquisition Accountability and Improvement Act of 2007 and the Clean Contracting Act of 2008. Over the last 19 years, the committee has enacted an almost uncountable number of GAO recommendations. And just last week, this committee established a Panel on Reform of the Defense Acquisition System to bring additional resources to its efforts in this area.
“The committee has certainly not been alone in its efforts: Secretary Gates, former Deputy Secretary Gordon England, and incoming Deputy Secretary Bill Lynn have also devoted a great deal of effort to these problems, and they have a lot of progress to show for it.
“We must concede, however, that a tremendous amount remains to be done. It is unacceptable that only one significant organization within the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, is able to reconcile its books with an outside auditor. It is unacceptable that the Department has allowed cost growth of $295 billion in its pending major weapon systems. It is unacceptable that the Department’s business systems remain stove-piped and incapable of generating the decision quality information that senior leaders need. We have not done enough.
“Today, the Acting Comptroller General, Mr. Dodaro, will update us on the high risk areas of the Department of Defense, and most importantly, provide us with his recommendations on how we can eliminate or mitigate these risks. I would note for my colleagues that in a few weeks, we will bring before the committee some of the senior managers of the Department of Defense to hear their plans for addressing these problems.
“Today, joining Mr. Dodaro are Ms. Katherine Schinasi, GAO’s Managing Director for Acquisition and Sourcing Management and Ms. Janet St. Laurent, GAO’s Managing Director for Defense Capabilities and Management.
“Before we hear the Comptroller General’s statement, I turn to my good friend and colleague John McHugh for his opening statement.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)