By Rob McIlvaineJanuary 26, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 27, 2012) -- Although widely disseminated in the news that Arlington National Cemetery was still missing $12 million, this is not the case. In fact, ANC has recovered $26,763,199.69 from prior fiscal years -- back to 2004 -- that was obligated but not disbursed.
"As part of the process of instituting new financial management controls and oversight, cemetery resource managers meticulously reviewed years of financial records and recovered funds that were sent to DOD agencies that support the cemetery," a spokesperson for ANC said.
On Oct. 1, 2010, Arlington transitioned to the Army's General Fund Enterprise Business System. GFEBS enables officials from both the cemetery and the Army to have complete visibility of its financial transactions.
"I have to give credit to Kathryn Condon, Army National Cemeteries Program executive director, because when she came on board, the first thing she wanted to do was get visibility of it. And she went after the general fund enterprise business system that enabled them to begin to account," Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Peter Vangjel told the committee.
Vangjel spoke during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, subcommittee on contracting oversight, Jan. 25. The subcommittee met to examine progress made to improve the management and oversight of contracts at Arlington National Cemetery.
The general said the Army Audit Agency, along with the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, both did program management reviews and audits because Condon did not want to submit a budget request until she could account for the money.
"As we look at oversight mechanisms right now, systemically, across the Army, we have got to make sure that we are spending our money appropriately, wisely, in the right places, and in accordance with our senior leader guidance," Vangjel said.
GRAVES & MISMANAGEMENT
Vangjel also discussed the differences between a 2010 IG report about the cemetery, and one produced a year later.
"The June 2010 IG report identified 61 deficiencies, among them being a deplorable organizational climate, archaic recordkeeping and automation systems, uncontrolled contracting and budgeting processes, and significant problem with gravesite accountability," Vangjel said. "In contrast, our 2011 IG report identified no deficiencies and noted significant progress at the cemetery, largely due to the course set by the secretary of the Army's Directive 2010-04, the efforts of the executive director and her team, and the support from the Department of the Army staff."
The cemetery, he said, now possesses an advanced, fully functional information technology infrastructure supported by a service agreement with the Army's Information Technology Agency.
The Arlington National Cemetery staff has leveraged the agency's consolidated customer service center to more effectively monitor and respond to customer calls, thus improving customer service. Additionally, a new computer application for digitizing burial records has been critical in establishing an accountability baseline for each gravesite and inurnment niche.
Contracting efforts at the cemetery are also now being conducted appropriately, Vengjel said.
"The 2011 inspection team reviewed 25 contracts covering services, engineering and construction, and found that these contracts are now properly aligned with contractors possessing the requisite skill sets to perform required work to standard," Vangjel said. "New acquisitions are subjected to rigorous analysis, pre-award compliance checks and contract-packet reviews for quality assurance. While we still noted some errors in 2011, none were egregious and the number was significantly less than 2010."
ARLINGTON CEMETARY & THE VA
Brian Lepore, director of Defense Capabilities and Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office, also testified during the hearing. He discussed some of the factors affecting the feasibility and advisability of transferring Arlington National Cemetery from the Department of the Army to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"It's certainly feasible. As you know, Congress transferred more than 80 Army-managed cemeteries to the VA in the 1970s," he said.
But several factors could affect the advisability of this, he said.
"Such a change could have potential costs and benefits, lead to some important transition challenges, and affect the characteristics that make Arlington unique among our national cemeteries. Thus, it may be premature to change jurisdiction, since the Army has significantly improved its management of Arlington," Lepore said.