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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Air Force's progress raises DoD's confidence toward audit readiness

Air Force officials say the service is making up the most ground of any of the military services as part of the push to finally get the Defense Department to successfully close its financial books.

But government auditors say this entire Pentagon effort is at risk because of shortcomings in the services' technology systems.

Jamie Morin, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller, said he is more optimistic than ever before because the service put money and people behind the problem.

Morin said during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that there is an increased likelihood that the Air Force will meet the 2017 deadline to have its financial statements fully auditable and the September deadline of being able to assert audit readiness for its schedule of budgetary activity.

This is a major change since last October when Morin told Senate Armed Services Committee members that the Air Force would struggle to meet the 2014 deadline, and 2017 wasn't going to be any easier.
But over the last six months, the Air Force has accomplished specific tasks one- by-one to meet the congressionally mandated deadlines.

Each of the services and DoD on the whole remain at different points in the process to achieve audit readiness. DoD is the only federal department that can't successfully account for its spending to meet third-party auditors requirements. The Marines Corps in fiscal 2012 received an unqualified opinion on its schedule of budgetary activity (SBA) — the first DoD service ever to receive that result.

Robert Hale, the out-going DoD comptroller, said he expects the Marines Corps to earn the same result for 2013.

While each of the services is at different points, the one common major challenge the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense all face is updating and integrating their technology software, specifically the enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems, to meet the audit readiness requirements.

Take the Air Force as one example. It's still using a system from 1968.

Morin said the Defense Enterprise Accounting Management System (DEAMS), is under development to replace that 40-year-old system.

He said the service received a positive assessment from the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center on DEAMS as currently deployed at more than six bases.

The Air Force plans to complete DEAMS deployment to all Air Mobility Command in the next couple of weeks and then more bases by Oct. 1. Morin said the Air Force also is on track to complete deployment Air Force-wide before the full financial statement audits begin.

The Army, on the other hand, is in better shape.

Robert Speer, the Army's acting assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller, said the general fund enterprise business system (GFEBs) is used by 53,000 service members and civilians at 200 locations worldwide.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the committee, said in no uncertain terms if the ERPs don't work, this effort is in real trouble. Coburn has asked both the IG and GAO to continue looking at DoD's ERP efforts.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com
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