“Audit Transformation: Improving the Army’s Processes, Data and Accountability” was the theme as more than 170 Soldiers, U.S. Army civilian employees and senior Army leaders focused on audit readiness during a Feb. 7-8 meeting at U.S. Army Forces Command Headquarters on Fort Liberty, N.C.
“Each financial management professional holds a critical role in advancing audit efforts, but the success of the audit is the responsibility of the entire Army community and will depend on strong partnerships across the Army,” said Hon. Caral Spangler, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller). “We all have a role in taking care of the Army’s business.”
“By focusing on the audit, the Army optimizes the purchasing power and maximizes the worth of every dollar entrusted to us by the American taxpayer,” according to Army Financial Management & Comptroller leaders. “When we do this, we are stronger, more informed and better resourced.”
Spangler discussed the “State of the Audit” with the attendees, sharing significant accomplishments in Fiscal Year 2023 among eight different categories – including in the fields of automation, real property, military pay and public confidence. She also indicated that Department of Defense’s goal is to receive an “unqualified audit opinion” by Dec. 31, 2028, while achieving progress with audit readiness milestones over the next four years.
Army-wide attendees included representatives from U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), Army Materiel Command, Army Futures Command, Army Training and Doctrine Command, Office of the Chief of Army Reserve, U.S. Army Reserve Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Army Financial Management Command, and other Army commands.
“Forces Command’s first audit summit was in 2018 and we intend to keep building momentum toward the goal of reaching a favorable audit opinion by 2028,” said Maj. Gen. Windsor S. Buzza, chief of staff of U.S. Army Forces Command. “That favorable opinion will demonstrate to the American people that we are being good stewards of the resources with which they entrust us. I know everyone here realizes it is going to take continued hard work and creative solutions by all to achieve this goal. It will be critical that we all work together to get there… if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The Army and other Department of Defense agencies are required by law to conduct financial audits. This is outlined in laws such as the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act and the 1994 Government Management Reform Act.
Financial auditability helps the Army to not only comply with laws, but also helps improve business processes, increase data reliability, make better use of resources, and enhance public trust to drive operational readiness. Financial statement audits aim to reduce risk from waste, fraud, and abuse by identifying improvements to internal controls, by validating that processes are operating as intended.
Army Lt. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, the military deputy for budget, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller, explained how the audit impacts operational readiness. “An efficient financial system allows for flexibility in adapting to changing mission requirements,’ he said.
“By ensuring funds are appropriately managed and available, the audit facilitates the ability to pivot resources to address unexpected or urgent mission needs without unnecessary bureaucratic delays,” Chamberlain said. “When financial and operational systems use the same data, people are taken care of, equipment is maintained, and training is resourced, as a result, the Army is better able to respond to world events.”
During the two-day event, Spangler and Chamberlain also joined with FORSCOM’s Deputy Chief of Staff for G-8, Dr. James E. Moyer, to recognize FORSCOM’s Army finance employees and Soldiers with personal presentation coins of excellence. The three Army leaders recognized the following for their financial achievements: Marlena Walker, Andrew Ozanich, Lauren Locklear, Bernadette Hudlin, Yvonne Evans, Margaret Whitener, Col. Jason Perez and Lt. Col. Anita Scattone-Frady; as well as Spc. Biraj Budhathoki of the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and Sgt. Iman Norwood of the 16th Sustainment Brigade.
The audit summit’s attendees included Army professionals who work on audit compliance as well as professionals from the comptroller, finance, resource management, human resource, logistics, information technology and other professional communities supporting audit readiness.
The summit emphasized the importance of modern human resources and military payroll systems, able to track pay, entitlements, allowances for housing and meals, and the ability to update these systems in a timely manner.
Roy Wallace, assistant deputy chief of staff G-1, Headquarters, Department of the Army, helped champion the Army’s new Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A). He shared with the group the benefits of the new system.
“IPPS-A is the Army’s flagship human resources system that automatically triggers more timely and accurate pay, pay inquiry capability and providing enhanced financial readiness,” Wallace said. IPPS-A has established both preventative and detective controls to support complete, accurate, timely and auditable operation of military pay processes. Its audit capabilities are on track in assisting the Army to achieve a favorable audit opinion, improving Army readiness and data accuracy.
The Fort Liberty meeting focused on the importance of audit readiness in a shifting environment and emphasized the connection between accurate financial and property accountability and Army readiness.
Other topics included the future of the Finance Soldier, risk management, procurement, general equipment, material weakness downgrades and audit acceleration.
“This summit is purposely designed to provide a platform for all of us to share our ideas and insights on improving our financial operations which impact mission readiness,” said Pamela Edwards-Faulk, director of FORSCOM’s Internal Review.
Forces Command’s Internal Review Office hosted the two-day audit summit. Internal Review’s mission is to provide independent, objective assurance, integrity, transparency and accountability of public resources.