By David VergunFebruary 29, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 29, 2012) -- "The current system we now have works," Col. Jason T. Evans told Congress today, regarding the Army's ability to maintain adequate databases and systems to track and verify awards of valor.
Evans, the Army's adjutant general, responded to Rep. John Tierney's questions on whether or not the Army and other services should continue using separate systems or merge them into one database for greater efficiency, accessibility and cost effectiveness.
Other congressmen echoed the concerns of Tierney during a Fraudulent Awards hearing this morning by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
The importance of good record keeping, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, committee chair, is "because people, including members of Congress, have in the past lied about their military service" and "people have been hired based on false service and claims."
Evans explained to the committees why the Army's system of awards record keeping isn't broke.
"The Army uses multiple databases and a systematic process to protect the integrity of our awards system and to verify awards information on its Soldiers, past and present," Evans said. "The Army [does this] through internal personnel databases, official military record files, microfiche and other historical and records cache resources, which require research and analysis."
The current system "seems convoluted and the incomplete nature of records is troublesome," said Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz, who asked Evans and other service representatives of the panel: "How do I, as an employer, verify if a prospective employee is telling the truth?"
"At the request of internal and external agencies we make it a priority to conduct thorough research and analysis and provide timely feedback to the requesting agency," Evans said.
Evans further explained that "a Soldier's period of service will impact the timeliness of our feedback. In many cases, for a Soldier who served during a past conflict, we request the Soldier's personnel records from the National Personnel Records Center to assist in the process of validating approved awards. When validating an award request, the Army takes great care not to deny a valor award solely based on the omission of records as records may have been lost entirely through no fault of the Soldier."
Chaffetz appeared skeptical. Change to a more centralized, accurate database system "needs highest priority at the highest levels of Defense. I'll push for this to happen and we'll hold hearing after hearing if need be."
Panel member C. Douglas Sterner, curator of the Military Times Hall of Valor, said there needs to be a comprehensive database of all military awards and that this could be accomplished by simple data entry, from paper to computer, in a timely and cost-effective manner. Sterner is an employee of Military Times, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc.
Evans summed up his view that "the Army awards system contains numerous checks and balances, which include endorsements from various levels of the chain of command and human resources elements for ensuring the appropriate level of recognition is warranted for each Soldier. We will continue supporting all legitimate agencies to protect the integrity of the Military Awards Program for our men and women who honorably serve this great nation."