The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending in a new report that the Defense Department (DoD) adopt a more centralized and “robust” strategy to mitigate a variety of risks faced by Defense Industrial Base (DIB) companies that supply the Pentagon and do a better job keeping track of the results of those mitigation efforts.

According to GAO, DoD has “generally concurred” with six recommendations made by GAO to address the problem. As a result, DoD will work on developing “a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate industrial base risks,” using enterprise-wide performance measures to monitor the effectiveness of its efforts, and reporting on its progress in mitigating risks.

GAO said in the report that risks to DIB companies – which number more than 200,000 – include materials shortages, reliance on foreign suppliers, weak physical or cybersecurity factors, and workforce gaps, among a long list of others.  

Several DoD offices and the military services already monitor DIB risks and work to mitigate them. But despite those ongoing efforts, “DoD doesn’t have a robust strategy to mitigate risks or track progress department-wide,” GAO said.

“Visibility over its department-wide efforts could help DOD determine whether the billions of dollars being spent are paying off,” GAO continued.

“The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Policy office does not yet have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the industrial base,” GAO said, and instead is using “a combination of four previously issued reports that were created for other requirements because it devoted its resources to completing other priorities.”

“Collectively, the reports do not include several elements GAO has previously identified that would help DOD achieve results, evaluate progress, and ensure accountability,” the watchdog agency said. The elements GAO wants to see as part of a new program include:

  • Strategy goals, milestones, and performance measures;
  • Where all resources should be targeted;
  • Information on which organizations are responsible for mitigating specific risks; and
  • Implementation plans.

“DOD must update its industrial base strategy following the submission of the next National Security Strategy Report, which is expected to be issued later in 2022,” GAO said.

“By including all elements in a consolidated strategy, DOD could better ensure that all appropriate organizations are working toward the same priorities, promoting supply chain resiliency, and supporting national security objectives,” it said.

“GAO’s prior work on enterprise risk management establishes that agencies should monitor and report on the status and effectiveness of their risk mitigation efforts,” the agency said. “Without key monitoring and reporting information, DOD and Congress do not have sufficient information to help determine whether industrial base risks have been mitigated and what additional resources or actions may be needed.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.