WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
A clean audit is the Holy Grail of U.S. military financial goals.
Generations of defense secretaries have pushed an unwieldy and confusing financial system closer to a clean audit, and Feb. 6 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recognized Department of Defense organizations that are at the forefront of this charge.
The Marine Corps and nine other defense agencies are leading the Defense Department in this effort. The Corps is the first military service to clear a financial audit; the other services expect to clear this hurdle later this year.
The goal is for all of DOD to be fully audit ready in 2017.
"The Air Force remains committed to financial improvement and audit readiness," said Doug Bennett, the deputy assistant secretary for financial operations with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Management and Comptroller, here. "In the last 12 months, we have overcome challenges arising from a lengthy contract protest, sequestration and the government shutdown. While each of these events has created schedule delays, we have made significant progress and are regaining momentum. We plan to achieve audit readiness and excellence in financial management by focusing on processes, people and systems, and we're on the path to achieving audit readiness of all of our financial statements by 2017."
The ceremony recognizing the organizations was held in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
"I know it might seem a bit unusual to be in the Hall of Heroes to honor a bookkeeping accomplishment, but damn, this is an accomplishment and I think it deserves a Hall of Heroes recognition," Hagel said.
The secretary specifically thanked Robert F. Hale, the DOD’s comptroller, for his work in making this happen. Hale is retiring later this year.
While Air Force officials are working to reduce budget concerns, the way to savings for the Marines was tough. The service consolidated 790 financial processes into 59, officials said. It linked previously "siloed" systems to trace transactions from start to finish. And it has done all of this while fighting two of America's longest wars.
Hagel reiterated that a clean audit is one of his priorities.
"We're not where we need to be yet, but we've come a long way," the secretary said.
The accomplishment does not grab headlines, Hagel acknowledged, "but it makes a huge, huge difference in everything we do," he said.
Audits ensure that taxpayers are getting what they invest in, and also reassure Congress.
"You don't invest in anything without some accountability, some audit, and we're no different," Hagel said. "For us to do our jobs better, we need to know what we're doing and how we're doing it. And that's what audits do for an institution."
The secretary also commended the following agencies for their audit work:
-- The Defense Finance and Accounting Service;
-- The Defense Contract Audit Agency;
-- The Defense Health Agency - Contract Resources Management;
-- The Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund;
-- The Military Retirement Fund;
-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Civil Works;
-- The DoD Inspector General;
-- The Defense Commissary Agency; and
-- The Defense Information Systems Agency.