Defense management: DOD should collect more data on stakeholder input and performance of its reporting process to Congress

What the GAO found

The GAO has identified six challenges with the Department of Defense (DOD) process to meet Congressional reporting requirements, including instances of delays, duplication, and fragmentation. For example, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs (ASD(LA)), which oversees the Congressional reporting process and is responsible for identifying reporting requirements, takes up to 3-6 months to do so, according to ASD. (LA) officials. ASD(LA) is undertaking a number of efforts to reform and modernize the process. The GAO has found that these reform and modernization efforts will resolve or partially resolve most of the challenges identified with the DOD’s reporting process to Congress. (See chart.) For example, the ASD(LA) plans to reduce the time it takes to identify and assign reporting requirements by using reporting requirements spreadsheets provided by congressional defense committees. .

Extent to which Department of Defense (DOD) reform and modernization efforts address challenges related to the Congressional reporting process

Challenge

Extent to which DOD plans meet the challenge

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs (ASD(LA)) often takes several months to identify and assign reporting requirements.

ASD(LA) does not always accurately assign reporting requirements, and reassignment deliberations are not consistently documented.

DOD officials independently assign and track their reporting requirements using separate systems.

Reports to Congress were mostly delivered on paper.

The ASD(LA) is not always timely in meeting reporting requirements.

The DOD has limited performance data on its process.

Legend: ● Addresses; ◐ Partial addresses; ○ Does not treat

Source: GAO analysis of DOD information. | GAO-22-105183

Better stakeholder awareness and performance data could help address unresolved challenges and improve DOD efforts. Specifically:

  • The GAO found that the ASD (LA) conducted limited outreach to internal DOD stakeholders during the development of its reform efforts, and many stakeholders were unaware of the extent efforts of ASD (LA). Conducting additional outreach activities could help ASD(LA) more fully address stakeholder challenges with the process, such as the need to rely on their own separate systems to track Congress reporting requirements.
  • The GAO also found that the ASD (LA) has limited performance data on its process for reporting to Congress, such as how long it takes officials to complete the various steps in the process. Establishing performance measures and outcome-oriented targets, and collecting the data needed to assess its progress, would better position the DOD to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of its reform and modernization efforts and identify other opportunities for reform.

Why GAO Did This Study

The DOD must meet Congressional reporting requirements on a variety of national security topics each year. Congress has expressed concerns about the DOD’s reporting process to Congress, and recent legislation has included provisions to reform and modernize it.

The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 includes a provision for the GAO to review the DOD’s current Congressional reporting process as well as ongoing reform and modernization efforts of the DOD. This report (1) examines the challenges DOD faces with its Congressional reporting process; and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD’s reform and modernization efforts address these challenges.

GAO analyzed relevant DOD directives, reform and modernization plans and proposals, cost estimates, and other documents. The GAO also interviewed officials about their experiences and challenges with the DOD’s congressional reporting process as well as its reform and modernization efforts.

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