Defense not monitoring cost-cutting initiatives, report finds

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta instituted the efficiency programs in fiscal 2012, with the savings coming over a five-year period. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta instituted the efficiency programs in fiscal 2012, with the savings coming over a five-year period. Saul Loeb/AP

The Defense Department is not adequately tracking its cost-cutting measures, according to a new report.

The Government Accountability Office’s audit found Defense has no standardized way to monitor $100 billion in anticipated savings from “efficiency initiatives” -- 70 percent of which is supposed to be reinvested in high-priority military needs.

GAO found various branches within Defense were not reporting all the costs involved in implementing changes, nor were they reporting on the savings from all initiatives.

The auditors recommended the department create a set of written, uniform metrics that all branches of the military, as well as the Special Operations Command, can use to report the savings from their cutbacks.

“This guidance should define reporting requirements for such things as the specific types of costs associated with implementing the initiatives,” GAO wrote, “including implementation costs that were not initially identified in calculations of net savings.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta instituted the efficiency programs in fiscal 2012, with the savings coming over a five-year period. The reinvestment funds will come from reorganizations, better business practices, program reductions and terminations and restrictions in lower-priority programs.

The department has taken some steps to standardize the way it monitors its savings, GAO said, but even the information it is collecting is not being delivered to decision makers.

Monique Dilworth, Defense’s operations director, said the agency “agrees with the spirit and intent” of GAO’s recommendation.

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