Army Audit Agency wins accolades for work environment
September 16, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 16, 2010) -- The Army Audit Agency is one of the top federal places to seek government employment according to a recently-released annual survey.
The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government 2010 survey draws on responses from more than 263,000 employees to produce detailed rankings of satisfaction and commitment across 290 federal agencies and subcomponents.
The AAA, ranked second out of 244 in agency subcomponents, protects Army interests by assessing the effectiveness of Army programs. In essence, it ensures that Army money is being spent the way it should be, programs are being carried out in the most effective manner and efforts are not being duplicated.
"The work is very interesting," said Benny Piccolo, principal deputy auditor general for the AAA. "We believe we are really helping Soldiers and their Families by what we do."
The AAA has been involved in high-profile audits like contracting fraud in Kuwait, the reassessment of body armor testing and the ongoing inquiry on mismanagement of remains at Arlington National Cemetery.
"We have the authority to look at any program that spends Army money," Piccolo said. "But we're not just looking at the financial planning of the program, we're looking at the execution."
The agency works closely with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command when suspicions of fraud or abuse arise.
For example, the Army's auditors helped snag a waste-removal contracting agency in Kuwait which was falsifying how much waste it was actually taking off bases.
"We noticed that the contract was significantly higher-priced than those in Iraq," explained Piccolo.
Alerted by the cost, Piccolo said that when the agency dug a little deeper, they discovered that because the company was being paid per truck of waste it removed, drivers were circling and returning to the base with the same load -- and getting overpaid.
Because of that scheme and others that were uncovered, thanks in part to the AAA, a commission on contracting was created to prevent future contracting fraud.
Piccolo explained that throughout the agency, about 600 employees help regulate Army programs in 25 field offices in the U.S. and abroad. At any given time, he said 30 AAA employees are deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan providing support to general officers and ensuring contracting agreements are being upheld.
Kevin Kelly, the strategic planning program director at AAA, said part of the appeal of working at the agency is the fact that auditors learn about a new topic each time they start an investigation. Auditors can delve into biometrics on one assignment, then months later, explore social media or information technology.
"You never do the same audit twice," Kelly explained. "Auditing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and if you enjoy puzzles, you'll do well here."
Although the job of an Army auditor involves a lot of travel, Piccolo said it can be exciting, and a lot of employees are recruited directly from college, which brings energy to the workplace.
"People who are successful here are comfortable with a constant learning curve," said Piccolo. "That's the fun of it."
So fun, in fact, that some employees who leave the AAA for seemingly better opportunities return after finding that other jobs are not as challenging -- and the agency is glad to have them back.
Bruce Miller, an auditor-in-charge for a functional audit team, did just that. After working five years at the AAA, Miller left to take a job with another agency, but only stayed for six months.
"I figured out within a few months that I'd already done everything there was to do at that job," he explained.
Returning, Miller was offered a managerial position and now oversees projects and runs his own team.
"I love it. Every six to nine months I start a 'new' job," he said.
The agency also encourages further education and offers professional training programs through Syracuse and Georgetown Universities.
And although many of the agency auditors have an accounting background, deciding which programs in the Army's $240 billion annual budget need a closer look isn't just a matter of crunching numbers.
"It's an art, more than a science," Piccolo noted.