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GAO Report Recommends More Oversight of DoD ISR

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Funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — or ISR as it’s known — is thought to be one area of the Defense Department’s budget pie that won’t be shrinking any time soon.

The successful intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden helped cement ISR’s reputation in a post-9/11 world. In fact, according to a new Government Accountability Office report, intelligence community spending, including for the military’s ISR efforts, has been growing for the past decade, topping $80 billion in 2010.

However, the GAO report says it’s now time for ISR investments to undergo the same scrutiny as other areas of DoD spending.

That report found that while Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers has the authority to oversee DoD’s ISR efforts, the “broad scope and complex funding arrangements of DoD’s ISR enterprise make it difficult to manage and oversee.”

The military’s ISR efforts include an array of agencies each with their own budgets and lines of authority — the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

Because of the complexity, officials are unable to “gain full visibility and clarity into all of DoD’s ISR financial resources hinders efforts to develop an investment strategy for ISR and to achieve efficiencies,” the report found.

Other areas of DoD spending have been under a magnifying glass, part of the efficiencies initiatives championed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to identify unnecessary or duplicative spending in departmental overhead.

“However, the scope of the review pertaining to ISR was limited to analysis activities and excluded activities associated with collecting ISR data — one of the largest areas of growth in ISR spending,” GAO found.

The report recommends the USDI should:

  • Collect and aggregate complete financial data to inform resource and investment decisions.
  • Establish goals and timelines to ensure progress and accountability for design and implementation of its defense-intelligence enterprise architecture, including clarifying how the department plans to use the architecture and tools it is developing to achieve efficiencies.
  • Expand the scope of current efficiency efforts to include ISR collection activities.

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