GAO: Pentagon largely complying with threat reduction reporting requirements

Five-year plan addressed Congress' requirements and tied funding to results, auditors found.

The Defense Department is mostly in compliance with requirements for reporting on its efforts to secure and destroy nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, the Government Accountability Office said in an analysis released Friday.

The Pentagon's fiscal 2006 report on the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, submitted to Congress in February, complied with all legislative requirements regarding the five-year plan for the program and with three of four requirements regarding funding accountability, the government auditors said.

"The five-year plan addressed the legislative requirements by setting forth funding information for the term of the plan and stating the purpose of those funds," and data the Defense Department provided were confirmed as accurate, GAO International Affairs and Trade Director Joseph Christoff wrote in a letter accompanying the analysis, which was provided in May to members of Congress.

"The accountability section addressed three of the four legislative requirements," Christoff continued. "It (1) discussed the status of contracts and services and the methods used to ensure that CTR aid is used for the purposes intended, (2) determined whether the assistance provided has been used effectively and efficiently and (3) described the audits and examinations planned for the next year."

The Pentagon did not, however, "provide a description of the condition and location of CTR-furnished equipment," Christoff wrote, adding that that information has instead been made available upon request in a new Defense Threat Reduction Agency database.

"When we asked to review the database, DTRA provided it to us in a timely manner," he wrote. The new database, he added, "draws information from a wider variety of sources" and "because of its voluminous nature" was not included by the Defense Department in the actual Cooperative Threat Reduction report.

Christoff told members of Congress in related testimony last week that, since beginning reforms of Cooperative Threat Reduction management in 2003 following several project failures, the Pentagon "has improved its management and internal controls over the CTR program" but "cannot fully mitigate the risks involved in cooperating with CTR recipient governments."

"Reaching agreement on project issues and obtaining necessary access can involve lengthy negotiations" with recipient countries, he said. "For example, after more than 10 years of discussion, Russia and DOD have yet to negotiate an agreement that would allow U.S. personnel access to monitor the loading of the CTR-funded fissile material storage facility at Mayak. Such an agreement would assure DOD that the facility is being used as intended."

Christoff added in the testimony that the department "lacks internal controls that would provide a system for monitoring projects upon their completion and applying lessons learned to future projects. … By conducting final reviews of completed CTR projects and addressing the findings of such reviews, DOD can further improve its current and future management of the program."