For years, people have been calling on the Pentagon to audit its books. Secretary Panetta, himself, confirmed his commitment to being fully audit ready by 2017, and moved up the timetable for a complete Statement of Budgetary Resources (SBR) to 2014.
While leadership on the part of top Pentagon brass is important, the 10 recordkeeping computer systems needed for the task, collectively known as the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, have been plagued by delays, and are unfinished. At a HASC Defense Financial Management and Auditability Reform Panel Subcommittee last week, the Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense, Elizabeth McGrath pointed to the problem of shifting and faulty system requirements at the outset of ERP procurement.
The requirements piece … sort of, bites us every time. And part of what we've learned is we over require. We think this is the only time we're ever going to have a shot at putting all the requirements in, so the programs are big and complex.
The GAO confirmed McGrath’s analysis in a report issued in October of last year that repeatedly cites proper management of requirements as a cause of delay. Asif Khan, Director of Financial Management and Assurance at the GAO, also a witness at the hearing, relayed the same opinion, saying:
I mean, that's part of the issue that we had highlighted, that the requirements up front have not been correctly ascertained. So once a development progresses, additional requirements come to light.
Pentagon leadership has been saying it cares about being auditable since the mid-1990s, but unless these seemingly technical problems are handled, leadership saying it wants an audit won’t be enough.