Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq:

GAO Audit Approach and Findings

GAO-07-385T: Published: Jan 18, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2007.

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GAO provided a strategic overview of GAO's work related to securing, stabilizing, and rebuilding Iraq. In our statement today, as requested, GAO highlighted (1) GAO's scope, authority, and coordination; (2) some of the insights stemming from our work in Iraq; and (3) the rigorous quality assurance framework that GAO uses to ensure relevant, reliable, and consistent results in all of our work. This testimony is based upon extensive work spanning several years. Since 2003, we have issued 67 Iraq-related reports and testimonies. For example, GAO sent a report to the Congress last week on a range of key issues for congressional oversight of efforts to secure, stabilize, and rebuild Iraq. Although many of our sources are classified, we strive to report information to the Congress in a public format to promote greater transparency and accountability of U.S. government policies, programs, and activities. As provided for in our congressional protocols, most of our work in Iraq has been performed under my authority to conduct evaluations on my own initiative since it is a matter of broad interest to the entire Congress and numerous committees in both chambers. Our work also helped inform the deliberations of the Iraq Study Group; the Comptroller General personally briefed this group on the results of our Iraq work in June 2006. GAO also provided significant additional information to the Iraq Study Group for its use.

GAO and the Inspectors General (IG) of individual departments and agencies have different roles and responsibilities. GAO's broad audit authority allows us to support Congress through strategic analyses of issues that cut across multiple federal agencies and sources of funding. Our work spans the security, political, and economic prongs of the U.S. national strategy in Iraq. The broad, cross-cutting nature of this work helps minimize the possibility of overlap and duplication by any individual Inspector General. Based on our work, we have made some unique contributions to Congress. Our past and ongoing work has focused on the U.S. strategy and costs of operating in Iraq, training and equipping the Iraqi security forces, governance issues, the readiness of U.S. military forces, and acquisition outcomes. Some highlights from our work follow. Our analysis of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq recommended that the National Security Council improve the strategy by articulating clearer roles and responsibilities, specifying future contributions, and identifying current costs and future resources. In our examination of the cost of U.S. military operations abroad, we recommended that the Secretary of Defense improve the transparency and reliability of Department of Defense's (DOD) Global War on Terror (GWOT) obligation data. We also recommended that DOD build more funding into the baseline budget once an operation reaches a known level of effort and costs are more predictable. In assessing the capabilities of Iraqi security forces, we found that overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated despite increases in the numbers of trained and equipped security forces. A complete assessment of Iraqi security forces' capabilities is dependent on DOD providing GAO with the readiness levels of each Iraqi unit. We found that DOD faces significant challenges in maintaining U.S. military readiness for overseas and homeland missions and in sustaining rotational deployments of duty, especially if the duration and intensity of current operations continue at the present pace. In assessing the impact of ongoing military operations in Iraq on military equipment, we found that the Army and the Marine Corps have initiated programs to reset (repair or replace) equipment and are likely to incur large expenditures in the future. In reviewing efforts to secure munitions sites and provide force protection, we recommended that DOD conduct a theaterwide survey and risk assessment of unsecured conventional munitions in Iraq and incorporate storage site security into strategic planning efforts. In assessing acquisition outcomes, we found that DOD often entered into contract arrangements with unclear requirements, which posed additional risks to the government. DOD also lacked the capacity to provide sufficient numbers of contracting, logistics, and other personnel, thereby hindering oversight efforts. In April 2005, an international peer review team gave our quality assurance system a clean opinion--only the second time a national audit institution has received such a rating from a multinational team. Thus, the Congress and the American people can have confidence that GAO's work is independent, objective, and reliable.

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