GAO's Take on the Transition

By John Liang / November 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Government Accountability Office today unveiled a new Web site dedicated to the presidential transition.

Out of 13 urgent policy concerns for the incoming Obama administration listed by GAO, four of them are national security-related: "U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan," "protecting the homeland," "undisciplined defense spending," and "rebuilding military readiness."

On the defense-spending side:

The new administration needs to move quickly to nominate and fill key leadership positions, including the Deputy Secretary of Defense (now statutorily designated as the Chief Management Officer), the Deputy Chief Management Officer, the Undersecretaries of Defense, and the Secretaries and the Undersecretaries in the military departments (now statutorily designated as each department’s Chief Management Officer). DOD senior leaders must have sufficient authority to make trade-offs between competing near-term and long-term demands, get the highest return from the funding choices that are made, and put sufficient controls in place to manage an increasingly large and involved contractor workforce.

As for the Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan issue:

No matter what policy choices are made, new approaches are needed that better integrate military, diplomatic, and development assistance into strategic, interagency plans.

On military readiness:

Developing an affordable plan to ensure that U.S. forces are ready to conduct missions at home and abroad now and in the future is critical to the nation’s security.

As for protecting the homeland, GAO has this to say about the Department of Homeland Security:

As the unifying core of the vast national network of organizations and institutions involved in securing the nation, the department must ensure that it is prepared and vigilant -- particularly during the presidential transition period, when the nation can be viewed as being especially vulnerable. Moreover, the new administration and Congress should work to further strengthen departmental operations and address critical issues that, as GAO has reported, affect the nation's security and preparedness.