WASHINGTON: A new approach is underway to help Pentagon officials better manage Defense Department finances, the department’s top financial officer told Congress today.
Robert F. Hale, the department’s comptroller and chief financial officer, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He outlined areas of financial management where the department is weak, as well as their goals for improvement.
“Commanders tell me we are providing the resources and financial services they need to meet our national security objective,” Hale said. “But I also fully understand there are enterprise-wide weaknesses in DoD financial management that demand an enterprise-wide business response.”
The department must improve the way it manages financial information such as auditable financial statements, Hale said. “The lack of auditable financial statements is an indication of those weaknesses, and it’s one of the business management weaknesses that must be resolved,” he said.
Through a “new and focused” approach, however, the department will improve its audit readiness by concentrating on improving quality and accuracy of information, Hale said.
“This new approach, I think, has established a demanding, but meaningful, goal,” he said. “It will lead, for example, to auditability for the statement of budgetary resources in all the services.
“The new approach is one to support senior military and civilian personnel; it’s been generally endorsed by Congress, and it’s been called a reasonable approach by the Government Accountability Office,” he continued.
Mostly importantly, all of the military services and defense agencies are on board with the change and working toward a common goal, Hale said.
But, he added, while establishing a goal is important, it won’t guarantee success. “You’ve got to implement that goal,” he said. “That’s the challenge in a department that is rightfully focused on winning the war in Afghanistan and completing the mission in Iraq.”
The department is working toward near- and long-term goals to support enterprise resource planning systems that are important to working toward and sustaining auditability, Hale said.
“I believe that, relying on this plan for implementation, we can meet the goal of auditability for information we most use to manage by 2017,” Hale said, noting that near-term goals have been set for two years to measure progress. “I think our new, focused approach and our implementation plan justifies our optimism. We are all personally committed to moving forward.”