By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeFebruary 18, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Feb. 18, 2014) -- A member of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command here is playing a key role in establishing the financial management oversight of approximately $4 billion in assistance to the security forces of Afghanistan.
Dr. Betty Harris deployed in December to Kabul, Afghanistan, in support of the financial management oversight division for the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan Programs and Resources.
The National Defense Authorization Act calls for the Defense Department to provide assistance as part of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund that entails the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation and construction, and funding.
Harris is serving as the audit chief on a one-year tour during which she is setting up a new civilian-led professional internal audit office within the financial management oversight division. Despite a challenge of turnover with minimal overlap, her staff includes DOD civilian audit supervisors and auditors, contract auditors and local national financial management auditors as well as a military auditor.
"We conduct compliance-based audits of pay and contracts the Afghans procure with Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan funds," Harris said. "We socialize, through interpreters, with the Afghans to understand their processes and review documents. This will be a very rewarding experience for us as we will also be able to teach our Afghan auditor counterparts about auditing and internal controls."
As the director of the MICC Internal Review and Audit Compliance office for the last four years, Harris has been responsible for providing reliable, independent and objective audit, review and consulting to optimize internal control systems and mitigate risks.
Through interpreters, she and her staff work closely with Afghan ministerial officers to conducting numerous audits.
"I respect their customs and wear a head scarf at all meetings I attend," the Atwater, Calif., native said. "At the MICC, I would conduct one audit at a time. Here, I manage five audits at a time in various stages of the audit process."
Conducting business affairs in Afghanistan was a component of training Harris received at Camp Atterbury, near Indianapolis, prior to deploying. Preparation also included weapons, personal security and mind fitness training. She found scenario-based vignettes to be the most valuable training.
"We were placed in various scenarios with Afghans who recently relocated to the U.S.," she said. "Each scenario was a replica of Afghanistan. They included shopping at a marketplace, attending a meeting with Afghans and seeing suspicious activity when driving in the city."
While there's minimal time outside of work and sleep, she does spend what little free time she has talking with family and friends. And although Harris admits that she misses the convenience of wearing her business suits, dresses, shoes and San Antonio Spurs gear, the certified public accountant must instead turn her attention to personal safety while cleaning her weapon and counting her ammunition.