DOD’s first-ever comprehensive audit revealed that the department’s inventory of real property is not as large as previously believed, a discovery that appears to be playing into officials’ thinking when it comes to asking Congress for a new round of base closures. “There are decisions that will come from [the audit] over time,” David Norquist, DOD comptroller and chief financial officer, who is also the acting deputy defense secretary, said Wednesday at a Center for the National Interest event. “One of the reasons we haven’t been pushing back is when you realize you don’t have quite an accurate assessment of what your current inventory is, then you want to be cautious about pushing for it,” Norquist said, reported Defense One.
Even prior to the audit’s completion in November, defense officials had concerns about the department’s most recent estimate of its excess capacity, from October 2017, which showed that 19 percent of its infrastructure is excess to its needs. After DOD’s decision not to request a BRAC round as part of its fiscal 2019 budget request last year, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment Lucian Niemeyer said his office was working with the services to take a closer look at it how much excess infrastructure the military is carrying.
By February 2020, the department will be required to prepare a new analysis of its excess capacity that is more detailed than the two estimates it has made since 2016, as a result of language in the FY 2019 defense authorization bill.
At this point, it’s not clear how much difference the recent audit will make in a new calculation of excess capacity. “We thought we had more square footage, more equipment, more facilities than we did in fact have available to us,” Norquist said. The audit, for example, revealed that 6.5 percent of the facilities on the Navy’s rolls no longer existed. “They were either demolished or replaced, but no one had gone back to the property books to take them off,” he said.
The audit found that the Army had mischaracterized the condition of buildings. “Their auditors’ concern was they had a number of buildings listed as being in usable condition and the auditors’ answer was, ‘No, these are not usable condition buildings. You should either knock them down or acknowledge that these building are not in working condition,’” Norquist said.
Photo courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville Center