DoD plans more formalized training for financial managers

Wednesday - 12/21/2011, 8:30am EST

Robert Hale, comptroller and chief financial officer, DoD

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As the Pentagon presses toward a 2017 deadline for a fully-auditable consolidated financial statement and an interim 2014 goal for a partial audit, it's going to need well-trained financial managers to get its books in order. While the Defense Department generally has a high-quality financial management workforce, the department lacks a formalized, standardized system of training for its financial managers, said Robert Hale, DoD's comptroller and chief financial officer.

"We don't have a framework in the DoD financial management community that says, okay, when you come in, here's the kind of things you need to do for training, then when you're a midgrade, here's what you need to do," he said. "Many people get that framework by talking to mentors, but we don't have one that cuts across the department or across the military services. I think we need that framework."

Robert Hale, DoD comptroller (Defense.gov)

Hale was a guest on Federal News Radio's On DoD, and discussed a wide range of topics relating to DoD's path toward auditability.

He said DoD also needs a mechanism for emphasizing certain kinds of training.

"Audit and accounting training is one of them," he said. "It's not the glory field. The glory field in financial management is budget, because that gets the money for the commander. But if we're going to be audit ready and improve the way we do business, we need training."

Hale's office has recommended to the military services and Defense agencies that they create a course-based certification program for financial managers, and he's hoping to have pilot programs set up in the DoD components by the end of next year.

From there, he hopes to move the department toward a DoDwide course based certification program for financial management. The training regime would be somewhat akin to the curricula the department has established for its acquisition workforce, only less centralized. Hale said he does not envision the department standing up a financial management version of its Defense Acquisition University.

DoD has plenty of work to do before it can claim auditability. A Government Accountability Office report issued Tuesday was the latest in a long string of shortcomings the audit agency has identified in DoD's financial management practices: it found neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps had implemented effective practices to make sure those two military services' internal account balances match what the U.S. Treasury's records reflect.

Not all of GAO's studies have reflected disdain for DoD's audit efforts, though. The watchdog office has told Congress that the Pentagon has a very credible plan for getting its books in shape by 2017, even while expressing some concern about the military services' abilities to successfully implement the plan.

Hale said he remains optimistic that DoD can meet both the 2017 deadline set by Congress and the interim 2014 goal for a partial audit, set earlier this year by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Panetta's direction isn't the only reason to work toward auditability though, Hale said. Congressional mandates tell DoD to push toward that goal, and there are plenty of reasons to think that the department could spend its resources better if it could track them better.

"But the big issue in my mind is public confidence in us as reasonable stewards of their funds," Hale said. "I think we are reasonable stewards, and we know where we're spending their money. But there's no way people will believe us until we can pass an audit."

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