Tracking Dollars

By Thomas Duffy / May 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

As Congress continues to pore over the Obama administration's fiscal year 2011 defense budget request, a group of Army financial planners is preparing to meet next month to talk about a vital part of Pentagon budgeting -- how each and every dollar is spent each year.

The Army Financial Improvement Plan Conference/Workshop will be held June 28-29 in the Pentagon, according to the meeting agenda. Army Under Secretary Joseph Westphal and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale are scheduled to speak.

The agenda lays out why the meeting is being held:

The conference objective is to inform attendees of Army auditability efforts and outline the Army's approach to obtaining auditability. The conference will address the business processes and controls that lead to audit readiness within the DOD, the importance of new systems (e.g. GFEBS, LMP, and GCSS-Army), the short-term goals to achieve auditability of the Statement of Budgetary Resources and assert the existence and completeness of mission critical assets and the roles the Chief Management Officer and the Army's Office of Business Transformation will play in obtaining and sustaining auditability. This two-day conference focuses on the audit executing roadmap, which includes critical preparatory steps affecting all Army commands.

For years Congress has leaned on the Pentagon to get what is called a "clean audit." Several members of Congress have argued that without knowing where the money is going, no type of budget reform is possible for DOD.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently wrote to President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which is trying to tackle the U.S. national deficit problem. After laying out what he sees as serious problems with the nation's defense budget, Coburn offered several steps that could be taken to control defense costs. Coburn's first step may be of interest to the folks attending the Army's June meeting:

Begin a crash program to have the Pentagon pass a financial audit; To provide the necessary incentive for a financial audit the “base” Pentagon budget should be frozen in FY2012 at the FY2011 level. Unless and until all major components and all major defense acquisition programs are certified by the Inspector General or an independent public accountant for an unqualified audit opinion, spending for those components and those programs should remain frozen. This freeze should not apply to any spending for direct support of overseas contingency operations or Defense Department personnel and wounded warrior accounts. If the Secretary of Defense or Congress asserts that a freeze will harm the national security of the United States or our troops in combat, funding may be increased but only by equally reducing other Defense Department components or programs.