This is a floor amendment to HR 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2015. It is a bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). It is floor amendment #87. It was filed at Rules Committee as #72. It was consolidated into en bloc amendment #5 offered by Chairman McKeon.
Amendment text (PDF)
Update May 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm: The Burgess/Lee ranking report amendment to NDAA FY2015 passed late May 21 as part of en bloc amendment 5 on HR 4435, the NDAA for FY2015. Thank you to Reps. Burgess and Lee for their leadership, and to the many organizations that supported it.
What it would do
Requires a report ranking all military departments and Defense Agencies in order of how advanced they are in achieving auditable financial statements as required by law.
The amendment would require the Secretary of Defense to provide the defense committees a short “report ranking all military departments and defense agencies ranking in order of how advanced they are in achieving auditable financial statements as required by law.” The report is due 30 days after enactment of the bill.
This would not be another long, duplicative report. The heart of it is a simple list. The amendment says explicitly, “The report should not include information otherwise available in other reports to Congress.”
Gives Congress information it does not have to hold Pentagon components accountable. Gives incentive to DOD components to get their books in order. Does not treat DOD as a monolith. Is focused and immediate.
This would give Congress and the taxpayers a tool they do not have: a clear, public list of which parts of DOD are making progress or lagging. No such list currently exists and Congress has never required it.
Current law is strong and clear. The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and related laws require federal agencies to pass an independent external audit each year, starting in the 1990s. But, 20 years after the deadline, DOD is the only major agency that has never been audited. GAO says DOD is “unauditable”. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in May 2011 in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute: “The current apparatus for managing people and money across the DoD enterprise is woefully inadequate.”
The problem is to create incentives for DOD to comply with the 20-year-old law. One key is to stop treating DOD as a monolith and expecting all or nothing. Each military department and defense agency must get its books in order and pass an audit. It’s not fair to view all parts of DOD the same. Each part of DOD should be seen on its own merits.
The amendment would essentially create a “class rank” that uses the power of transparency and creates an incentive for accountability. The ranking will bring positive recognition to the leaders, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and Marine Corps. The ranking will inspire the laggards to improve. The amendment would allow Congress to evaluate each part of DOD on its own merits.
Imposes no financial consequences. Is just a report. Relies on the power of transparency.
Who supports it
Following is a list of organizations that support this amendment. Note that these organizations do not necessarily endorse the Audit the Pentagon Coalition Principles.
National Taxpayers Union — Blog post May 21, 2014
Project on Government Oversight (POGO) — Blog post of May 21, 2014. Email to supporters May 21, 2014
Taxpayers for Common Sense — Blog post May 21, 2014.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance — Blog post, May 21, 2014.
Win Without War Coalition — Email to House members, May 21, 2014.
Women’s Action for New Directions Action Center — Blog post, May 21, 2014.
Pentagon Budget Campaign — Blog post, May 21, 2014. Letter (2-page PDF) signed by:
Campaign for Liberty
Center for International Policy
Coalition to Reduce Spending
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Just Foreign Policy
National Priorities Project
National Security Network
National Taxpayers Union
Peace Action West
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)
Project On Government Oversight
R Street Institute
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
United for Peace and Justice
U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions Action Center
Women Legislators’ Lobby