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Comptroller notes progress in DOD financial management

The Honorable Jamie M. Morin answers questions regarding Air Force audit readiness during his testimony in front of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, May 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Morin is the assistant secretary of the Air Force financial management and comptroller(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Jamie M. Morin answers questions regarding Air Force audit readiness during his testimony May 13, 2014, in front of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He is the assistant secretary of the Air Force financial management and comptroller. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Despite financial uncertainties, the Defense Department has made significant progress in improving financial management, DOD Comptroller Robert F. Hale told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee May 13, while in attendance with military senior leadership.

Hale specifically highlighted DOD’s progress toward achieving clean financial statements.

“Despite the budgetary turmoil of recent years, I believe we have made substantial progress -- without question, more progress in the last few years than we’ve made in the other period,” he said.

A clean audit is tough for the department for a number of reasons, Hale said, but he added that he believes DOD is on track to achieve audit readiness for all financial statements by 2017.

“Meeting audit goals requires major changes in a department that is big, and where change is difficult,” Hale said. “We need a new financial system. We need significant changes in our business practices. They’re hard to implement in a big organization.”

And challenges have been thrown in the way, he noted. DOD went through five government shutdown planning drills in the last few years. The department went through two six-month continuing resolutions. In 2013, there was sequestration, “and a furlough followed by the shutdown and a furlough,” Hale said.

“Time and again, we’ve wasted time re-planning budgets because of the seemingly constant changes in the outlook for revenues,” he continued. “This turmoil has definitely usurped time that could have been spent on audit and other activities.”

Still, he said, there is progress. In 2012, the Marine Corps received a clean audit opinion, “and we expect a similar result in 2013,” Hale said.

The entire Department of Defense has been evaluated and deemed ready for audit of the funds-distribution process, Hale said.

“It’s a critical accomplishment,” the comptroller added, “because it provides verification that we are distributing the funds the way that Congress envisioned when you passed the laws.”

He listed other examples of progress, pointing out that the Navy has achieved a positive opinion on civilian pay and travel expenses, the Air Force has a positive opinion on funds balanced with the Treasury Department, and DOD is well along in deploying financial systems.

Dr. Jamie Morin, assistant secretary of the Air Force financial management and comptroller was also in attendance to testify about the Air Force status and said Air Force senior leadership has made this a top priority.

“Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James included the audit and ‘making every dollar count' as one of her top three priorities for the Air Force,” Morin said. “She has recently written to key leaders across the Air Force directing them to take specific actions in support of audit readiness.”

With all the services working together to accomplish being fully ready for audit, Hale believes that the Department of Defense as a whole will be ready later this year.

“We expect that most of DOD’s budget statements will be ready for audit by Sept. 30, including statements in all of the military services,” Hale said. “And I believe that is an enormous accomplishment for this department.”

(Editor’s Note: Information added for Air Force perspective.)

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