ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Army National Guard (ARNG) reached a milestone in their transition from the Standard Installation and Division Personnel Reporting System (SIDPERS) to the Integrated Personnel and Pay System - Army (IPPS-A) on Dec. 16, 2019. IPPS-A is now live in half of the ARNG's 54 states and territories with over 170,000 Soldiers in the system.
IPPS-A is the Army's new 21st century human resources (HR) and pay system that is revolutionizing how the Army does business and is bringing the total force into the digital age. The ARNG will complete its release 2 migration to IPPS-A on March 24, 2020. Release 3 fielding to all components is estimated for Dec. 2021.
Upon full deployment, IPPS-A will integrate personnel and pay data in a single system for all Army components, approximately 1.1 million Soldiers, for the first time ever. IPPS-A Functional Management Division Chief, Col. Gregory S. Johnson is thrilled to be at this point in the fielding process.
"It's a monumental achievement," said Johnson of reaching the halfway mark. "When fielding of the program first started, it was basically 54 states and territories doing things 54 different ways. There was no set process like semi-centralized promotions, individual workflow, oversight on finance or auditability. Now, we have states doing things through one process. That's huge."
Certain challenges have presented themselves along the way, particularly in understanding how the ARNG operates, said Johnson. There are differences in language and processes in the Guard that aren't automatically understood by Soldiers in the active component. However, as the fielding of the system to the Guard began, several members of the initial fielding groups stepped up and helped close those gaps.
"We have an Army requirement that's about three components, but unless you're in the Guard you don't know how the Guard operates," said Johnson. "So, for us, it was pretty instrumental that we had some key leaders from the Guard helping."
One of those key players is the Pennsylvania ARNG (PAARNG). Pennsylvania went live with IPPS-A on Jan. 14, 2019, as the inaugural state to go live in the system. The work done during their migration was crucial to the rest of the system delivery throughout the Guard. PAARNG developed a standard operating procedure for fielding the system that the remaining fielding groups have used.
The PAARNG also created and continues to hold training sessions, called state-to-state training. These provide each fielding group 'lessons learned' from the PAARNG about IPPS-A. These lessons include how to make the migration go as smooth as possible, but also tips on how to use the system once their state reaches go-live.
"That's all tied to leadership," said Johnson. "I didn't ask for Pennsylvania to continue to help. They came to us on their own. You have key individuals in their state who are dedicated to the whole Army mission. That's a pretty big story. I think that's why people want to join the Army is having people go out of their way to help the mission and individuals. That's the definition of being a part of something."
Master Sgt. John Karpovich, PAARNG G1 Operations noncommissioned Officer is one of the Soldiers from Pennsylvania who has continued to contribute to the migration of the system. Karpovich is proud of the work he and his fellow Pennsylvania Guardsmen have done since their state went live in IPPS-A.
"I am glad to continue doing my part for the Army and impact not just the Soldiers of PA, but also the states who have gone live after us," said Karpovich. "We are pleased to be given the opportunity to share our products with other fielding groups and get to know our counterparts and peers from around the country. We are in this together."
With close to 160,000 Soldiers left in the remaining three fielding groups before the entire ARNG is live in IPPS-A, Johnson is pleased the migration has stayed on track, and knows the IPPS-A team has played a significant role in the program's current success.
"By sheer force we've kept the schedule for deployment," said Johnson. "We have a lot to do with these last three fielding groups, but I'm really proud of the team that has got us this far. You don't get to this point without focused, dedicated teamwork."
The ARNG completes their release 2 migration to IPPS-A by the end of March 2020, at which time IPPS-A will focus on continuous process improvement and preparations for release 3 fielding to the Army's active and reserves components. To prepare for release 3, HR Soldiers are encouraged to participate in weekly military pay sync meetings. Participants include Defense Finance and Accounting Services partners and ARNG U.S. Property and Fiscal Offices. Participants discuss lessons learned and review challenges seen across ARNG states.
The active component should also be on the lookout for training available at their base. Since Aug., teams consisting of Soldiers from the Human Resources Command who are assigned to DFAS (one DFAS 42A HR specialist and one 36B financial management technician) have visited 21 locations throughout the U.S. to teach the fundamentals of Army finance.
Johnson wants both components to know that despite the increase in volume of who the system is being fielded to, the lessons learned during release 2 shows him the IPPS-A team can handle the challenge.
"I'm optimistic that we have the right team focused on delivering the system," said Johnson. "Folks told me this is a fool's errand when I showed up in 2016, and I refused to believe that. In R2 [release 2], we showed this is all feasible. It's time to bear down with the best of the best and get this done."