Defense Secretary Leon Panetta grabbed headlines with his October announcement before HASC that the Pentagon will achieve an auditable Statement of Budgetary Resources by 2014. Shortcomings aside, Congress appropriately latched on to the commitment. In the conference report accompanying the 2102 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers aptly note that:
Today‘s challenging fiscal environment requires that management decisions be based on sound and reliable financial data… Achieving audit-ready SBR statements by the 2014 deadline would be a significant accomplishment and an important milestone on the Department‘s path to achieving full audit-readiness by the 2017 statutory deadline.
Very true. Which makes how Congress handled this issue in the actual bill all the stranger.
The House passed its version of the 2012 NDAA well before Secretary Panetta made his promise, so this issue fell to the Senate. And the Senate came through, including language (see §1005) to legally move the SRB due date to 2014 from 2017, as currently required by the 2010 NDAA. Yet, when the two came together last week, the accelerated SBR fell out.
Instead, Congress amended a reporting requirement to include a plan “to support the goal established by the Secretary of Defense.” As for the goal itself – a 2014 SBR – there is no change. The Pentagon has to explain how it would prepare an SBR by 2014 (see §1003), but it still isn’t legally required to do it until 2017.
Gives sort of a hollow ring to the conference report’s incisive rhetoric about meeting “today‘s challenging fiscal environment” with “sound and reliable financial data,” doesn’t it?