News   Reform

DOD-Wide Audit Improves Efficiencies to Benefit Warfighter

Nov. 17, 2020 | BY DAVID VERGUN , DOD News

With the exception of a couple of organizations, the Defense Department has completed most of its third annual comprehensive financial statement audit covering the entire enterprise, worth about $2.9 trillion, a DOD official said, adding that there have been improvements resulting from the audit that will directly benefit the warfighter.

Soldiers sling load a helicopter.
Loading Labor
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, sling load a simulated piece of military equipment to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during an exercise at an airfield in Kuwait, Nov. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Army Capt. Jason Nelson
VIRIN: 201114-Z-IK914-303M

As of Nov. 12, DOD had cleared more than 530 findings, which are 16.3% of the discrepancies from the prior year’s audit, Thomas W. Harker, who is performing the duties of the under secretary of defense (comptroller)/chief financial officer, said at a Pentagon press briefing.

Several hundred more discrepancies should be cleared by next month when auditors complete their work. None of the discrepancies were related to fraud, he noted.

The cost of this year's audit was approximately $203 million, he said, with about $700 million in savings identified.

The ultimate goal is to get a clean financial statement audit opinion across the entire department, Harker said, but the lack of a positive opinion should not be regarded as a failure.

Airmen work on machinery.
Moving Machine
Airmen maneuver a tele-handler machine over a cement mixing truck to pour in repair material to patch airfield craters at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 16, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force
VIRIN: 201116-F-KB839-001M

"We've been clear that this is a journey that will require a sustained effort over several years. And we remain committed to this goal and continue to make significant progress," Harker said.

The DOD audit is actually 24 separate audits of the military services, as well as defense agencies.

Harker provided some examples:

  • The Navy eliminated three material weaknesses, two on their general fund and one on their working capital fund; the Marine Corps eliminated one material weakness, he said.
  • The Defense Information Systems Agency has improved its business processes and controls, resulting in decreased time required to deliver property to customers, improved accuracy of property records and improved accuracy of financial statements.

Among the organizations expected to receive a clean audit, besides DISA, are: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Civil Works; the Military Retirement Fund; the Defense Health Agency — Contract Resource Management; the Defense Contract Audit Agency; the Defense Finance and Accounting Service; the Defense Commissary Agency; and the DOD's Office of the Inspector General.

Ships are at anchor.
USS Ronald Reagan
The Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returns to its home port of Yokosuka, Japan, Nov. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ian Cotter
VIRIN: 201114-N-IR734-1106M

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, auditors were prevented from doing a lot of in-person travel and testing, he said. Nevertheless, the auditors did a lot of virtual testing, using such things as digital media and photos.

Independent public accounting firms, along with DOD and the Office of the Inspector General perform the audits. About 1,400 auditors conducted more than 100 in-person site visits this year and more than 530 virtual site visits, he said.

Marines use laptops.
Cyber Ops
Marines practice cyber operations during the Cyber Electronic Warfare Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 17, 2020.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Jennessa Davey
VIRIN: 200917-M-OY155-1000

Audit remediation is one of the major components of the National Defense Strategy lines of effort focused on reforming business processes for greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

Harker said the audit provides the following benefits:

  • Improves the quality of the department's financial statements and underlying data available to the public, including providing a reliable picture of its assets, liabilities and spending.
  • Highlights areas where the department needs to improve its accountability over assets and resources. 
  • Improves cybersecurity.
  • Provides accountability and transparency to Congress and the American public.
  • Identifies legacy systems that need to be eliminated.
  • Identifies where too many systems are in place and where consolidation of systems will improve efficiencies.
  • Identifies previously unknown equipment that's available for the warfighters.
  • Provides more accurate financial data that gives leaders improved ability to use that data to make decisions.