The Department of Defense (DOD) is required to report to Congress on an array of national security topics each year. The number of new reporting requirements increased from 513 in FY 2000 to 1,429 in FY 2020, according to DOD. Recent legislation has sought to reform this process.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified challenges in DOD’s reporting process and instances of delays, duplication, and fragmentation. Reforms are underway that should address most of these challenges, but GAO says DOD’s efforts would be improved with greater outreach to stakeholders within DOD and better data gathering.
GAO identified six challenges with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) process for responding to congressional reporting requirements, including instances of delays, duplication, and fragmentation. For example, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs (ASD(LA)), which oversees the congressional reporting process and is responsible for identifying reporting requirements, takes as long as 3 to 6 months to do so, according to ASD(LA) officials. ASD(LA) is undertaking a number of efforts to reform and modernize the process. GAO found that these reform and modernization efforts will address or partially address most of the identified challenges with DOD’s congressional reporting process. For example, ASD(LA) plans to reduce the time required to identify and assign reporting requirements by using spreadsheets of reporting requirements provided by the congressional defense committees.
According to the government watchdog, better stakeholder outreach and performance data could help address the unresolved challenges and improve DOD’s efforts. GAO found that ASD(LA) conducted limited outreach to internal DOD stakeholders in developing its reform efforts, and many stakeholders were not aware of the extent of ASD(LA)’s efforts. GAO also found that ASD(LA) has limited performance data on its congressional reporting process, such as the time that it takes officials to complete various steps of the process.
GAO is recommending that DOD ensures ASD(LA) consults with internal stakeholders to inform DOD’s reform and modernization efforts, and establishes performance measures and outcome-oriented goals, and collects the data needed to assess DOD’s progress. DOD concurred with GAO’s recommendations.