WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top budget official is “enthusiastic” about the start of the long-awaited audit for Department of Defense finances.

David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and chief financial officer, told the audience at the the Defense News Conference on Sept. 6 that the audit will begin in fiscal year 2018.

“It won’t be easy,” he acknowledged, adding, “after all, DoD’s assets of roughly $2.3 trillion are 10 times the size of Walmart. And along with sheer size, there is significant complexity. However, this is not a reason to delay the audit; it is a reason to begin.”

While chief financial officer at the Department of Homeland Security under President George W Bush’s administration, Norquist oversaw the first audit of that organization, which left the DoD as the only government agency not to have undergone an audit process. That has left Congress and good-government groups frustrated with the Pentagon, a feeling Norquist said he shares.

But with the audit nearing commencement, Norquist, in his first public speech since taking office, said Wednesday that he is confident the department will benefit in the long term.

“I know we will learn a lot, and we will encounter challenges along the way. However, where we find problems, we will also find opportunities,” the comptroller said. “Remediating audit findings is at the center of our audit strategy, and when we complete remediation, we will have data that is dependable and systems that are reliable.”

A large part of that optimism comes from potential uses for the data that will be gathered, which Norquist elaborated on during an exclusive interview with Defense News in August. 

“As you make progress on the audit and get more reliable financial information, there are cool things you can do with data analytics,” Norquist said then. “You use data analytics to analyze databases to find trends and patterns. If it’s reliable, then you can use that to drive a lot of changes.”