In this exclusive interview, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) David Norquist details how the Department of Defense’s audit is proceeding, and what the top priorities are for the Pentagon’s chief financial officer.
The Department of Defense’s first audit is approaching the one year mark. Since January, the agency worked to itemize and analyze more than $2.4 trillion in assets, and they plan to do it again next year. While the audit has support from the top brass, including Secretary Mattis, there’s still a lot of financial information to comb through at the agency. In an interview with Government Matters’ Francis Rose, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) David Norquist said that performing the audit annually will improve DoD for the better. “The goal of the audit is to be able to drive change in the department. What we are looking for is enough findings with enough detail to them to help map that way forward. The second benefit we are looking to get from the audit is that baseline,” Norquist said. “One of the challenges I think members of Congress and others have experienced over the last five of ten years is, how do you know if the department is making progress? How can you see? With the audit, we’ll be tracking each [finding.] Over the years, people should be able to see those numbers of findings going down as we close problems. That baseline, from which we can prioritize tasks and begin to fix things is an important part of what we are looking to get out of the audit.” Norquist says that the audit is leveraging data to make sure that problems they find now don’t have to be fixed again in a few years. “The audit’s going to repeat the process. They will pull the samples and see if we find fewer errors the second time around. That regular drumbeat helps both as a manager to understand if we are making progress and measuring it. It helps the organization understand that it is not going to go away. One‑time fixes aren’t going to work,” said Norquist. “Data analytics help as well. You do searches on fields, you look for the blanks, you look for the ‘0s’… We’ve noticed as we’ve pulled in the data that the cleanliness of the data is improved each time we go through the cycle.”