Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the latest iteration of their “High Risk Series” reports. The biennial update highlights government sectors that demonstrate significant shortcomings in operational efficiency, leading to significant financial risk among other liabilities—with potential losses starting at a minimum of $1 billion.
The High Risk List represents a series of government areas that have long been considered bastions for precipitous waste, usually resulting from negligence or indifference. There are 35 areas identified as high-risk, and the latest update shows over half of them remain unchanged—firmly embedded in their imprudent practices.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has a seemingly permanent accommodation on the list. This year it is responsible for 6 of the 35 areas. Set to receive $750 billion in 2019, if President Trump’s military budget is approved by Congress, the Defense Department would make up over 15% of the proposed government expenditures. The DoD must get its act together if the U.S. debt is to be addressed. Unfortunately, the third most expensive branch of the federal government also has the largest footprint on the high-risk list.
But welcome change is coming.
This year, in a feat that proves miracles plausible, DoD’s Supply Chain Management sector was finally removed from high-risk classification after a depressing run of 29 years on the list. In the 2017 report, the Supply Chain Management Division showed growth in 11 of the 18 areas GAO recommended for improvement, but still fell short of the proper accountability necessary to be deemed secure. This year, they finally did enough to be removed from the list.
Supply Chain Management makes up a large share of the DoD’s primary budget. With 4.9 million secondary inventory items that have a total value estimated at $92.9 billion, these are some very expensive spare parts. Proper management of this collection of critical components not only provides financial transparency, but also ensures mission readiness.
Asset visibility was deemed a high-risk area of the Supply Chain Management division in 2005 as a result of distribution backlogs. It was one of the final seven areas addressed this year, in an effort to remove DoD Supply Chain Management from the list. Asset visibility is a particularly important piece of the DoD supply chain. Encompassing all military equipment and supplies, the improvement in asset visibility means Congress and American taxpayers can now trust that accurate and timely reports containing information on all inventory will be published in a timely manner by DoD. This is crucial when assessing the viability of contracts, military equipment readiness, and large investments of taxpayer dollars into upgrading military technology—all previous concerns published by Pursuit when assessing irresponsible military spending.
The improvement of DoD’s Supply Chain Management sector is a step in the right direction. With six other areas of high-risk, the Defense Department has a long way to go. But a 29-year obstacle has been overcome, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe that an impetus for positive growth may be sweeping the Pentagon; drawing us one small, but critical, step forward to addressing our ballooning national debt.