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Congress has had it up to here with agencies not taking its spending advice

John M. Donnelly, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Congress is increasingly trying to force federal departments, especially the Pentagon, to quit disregarding audit recommendations on how to get more bang for billions of dollars in taxpayer bucks.

Starting next year, in fact, federal agencies will have to explain to Congress why they are letting thousands of good ideas gather dust.

Across the government, departments and agencies had not implemented more than 15,000 proposals from their inspectors general that could save $87 billion -- some 38 percent of that money at the Pentagon, according to a 2016 report from two Senate committees, Judiciary and Homeland Security.

Two years later, it turns out, the Defense Department still leads the way in shelving auditors' ideas.

The Defense Department has more unheeded audit recommendations than any other agency, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon has failed to implement more than half the 1,122 recommendations that GAO has put forth to improve defense programs since fiscal 2014, the auditors told the Armed Services Committees in a report this week.

In fairness, a minority of the GAO's Defense Department recommendations may have gone unimplemented because military officials have not had time to take action on the more recently released recommendations.

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However, nearly a quarter of the GAO's defense recommendations that were at least four years old have not been heeded, this week's report says.

The GAO's recommendations cover a broad range of Pentagon programs. These include ways to improve the quality of Navy ships and to reduce the likelihood of at-sea collisions. They also comprise ways to set strategies for combating sexual harassment, to improve military preparedness and to enhance decision-making on weapon contracts.

The Defense Department "has made progress in implementing these recommendations, but we would like DOD leadership to place more emphasis on taking the actions we've recommended, especially in the areas that we designate as high priority, such as rebuilding readiness and improving contract and acquisition management," said GAO's Elizabeth Field, the lead author of this week's report, in a statement to CQ.

GAO recommendations for other agencies are no less serious. They have covered everything from improving veterans access to medical care to shoring up safety by improving training in the State Department.

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