Congress limited in its ability to relate DoD budget requests to effectiveness of counter-WMD strategy

The report of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit, Weapons of Mass Destruction: Actions Needed to Track Budget Execution for Counterproliferation Programs and Better Align Resources with Combating WMD Strategy, concluded that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) “inability to precisely determine how budgets are allocated among multiple combating WMD mission areas or pillars, or to be sure in all cases what proportion of spending for a particular program element goes to combating WMD programs, is due in part to the difficulty of the task, and we are not convinced that the effort required to improve DoD’s accuracy in this area would provide a corresponding benefit.”

Consequently, GAO reported that “without a clearer portrait of combating WMD shortfalls and their relation to funding priorities, Congress will be limited in its ability to relate DoD budget requests to the effectiveness of DoD’s combating WMD strategy.”

GAO did note, however, that the Defense Department“has made progress in integrating the elements of combating WMD and attempting to define the resources that are allotted to each of the three pillars: nonproliferation, counterproliferation and consequence management.”

GAO said it is “not presently making recommendations on this issue,” but noted that “limitations of the the [latest] Counterproliferation Program Review Committee (CPRC) report and other means that DoD uses to show how resources support strategy make it difficult for Congress to understand how resources appropriated for counterproliferation programs are being expended and what effect those resources are having on combating WMD programs and overall counterproliferation efforts.”

The CPRC is charged with a variety of duties related to coordinating the activities and programs of federal agencies that address improvements in the government’s efforts to combat WMD. The Secretary of Defense, as chairman of the CPRC, is required to report its findings biennially.

“To improve DoD’s ability to track program execution for combating WMD programs as a whole,” GAO said it “recommend[ed] that the Secretary of Defense direct the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, as Chairman of the CPRC Standing Committee, to show actual appropriations and expenditures as well as budget requests when reporting programs in the CPRC report.

GAO stated that “one of the key elements of an effective national strategy is identifying resources and investments necessary to execute that strategy. However, the CPRC report provides information on only budget requests; it does not provide any data on budget authority or actual outlays. In addition, visibility over how the department’s resources support its counterproliferation strategies is limited, in part because those resources are not comprehensively aligned with gaps in counterproliferation capabilities identified by the Joint Staff based on inputs from the combatant commands and other DoD sources. Moreover, efforts across DoD to align resources with identified gaps in its ability to carry out its counterproliferation strategy have not been fully integrated into DoD’s budget process.”

“Although the 2009 CPRC report shows what mission areas the various programs/program elements are responsive to,” GAO pointed out, “it does not show what functional capability gaps they are designed to mitigate. As a result, the report does not present congressional decision makers with a clear portrait of how counter-WMD gaps translate into DoD funding priorities.”

GAO has reported extensively in recent years on nonproliferation and consequence management – two of the three pillars of combating WMD. GAO’s most recent report on the third pillar, counterproliferation, was issued in 2000.

DoD defines counterproliferation as “those actions taken to defeat the threat and/or use of WMD against the United States, our
military forces, friends, and allies.”

House Armed Services Committee Report 111-166 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, directed GAO to assess and report on DoD and interagency counterproliferation activities, including the extent to which existing
strategies for the combating WMD mission are effective and the strategic framework encompasses a common lexicon; DoD’s development of comprehensive plans that are integrated across combating WMD mission areas; and counterproliferation programs and related funding support DoD plans and strategies.

Source: HSToday


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