Cost overruns and schedule slips for the Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] System, an essential tool for keeping accounting records, have been one of the most paradoxical of the Pentagon’s fiscal frustrations. Last Fall Secretary Panetta publicly committed to accelerating the process of making military finances auditable, yet the very systems needed to do so are themselves suffering from the budget setbacks they’re meant to resolve. And now the Defense Department’s own Inspector General has jumped on the pile with this finding:
The impact of [ERP system] schedule delays increases the risk that DoD will not achieve an auditable Statement of Budgetary Resources by FY 2014 [as Secretary Panetta promised] or accomplish its goal of full financial statement audit readiness by FY 2017.
Fixing this situation is foremost a responsibility of the Pentagon’s. But the Inspector General did this work in response to a congressional request, and it’s worth noting that Congress isn’t faultless in the circumstance either. The Armed Services Committees gave themselves a chance during deliberations on the 2012 authorization act to write Secretary Panetta’s commitment into statute but, for reasons still unknown, they opted not to.
Beyond the intrigue of the Pentagon’s Inspector General adding weight to the issue, little seems to have changed. Progress on audit-readiness remains halting, in part because of the ERP’s troubles, and the risk remains real that these goals won’t be met. If that happens, Congress can look back on its decision to request reports like this one instead of acting in its authorization bill as one explanation why.