Army Reserve Soldiers Mobilized to Active Duty Experienced Significant Pay Problems
GAO-04-990T: Published: Jul 20, 2004. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 2004.
In light of GAO's November 2003 report highlighting significant pay problems experienced by Army National Guard soldiers mobilized to active duty in support of the global war on terrorism and homeland security, GAO was asked to determine if controls used to pay mobilized Army Reserve soldiers provided assurance that such pays were accurate and timely. GAO's audit used a case study approach to focus on controls over three key areas: processes, people (human capital), and automated systems.
The processes and automated systems relied on to provide active duty pays, allowances, and tax benefits to mobilized Army Reserve soldiers are so error-prone, cumbersome, and complex that neither DOD nor, more importantly, Army Reserve soldiers themselves, could be reasonably assured of timely and accurate payments. Weaknesses in these areas resulted in pay problems, including overpayments, and to a lesser extent, late and underpayments of soldiers' active duty pays and allowances at eight Army Reserve case study units. Specifically, 332 of 348 soldiers (95 percent) we audited at eight case study units that were mobilized, deployed, and demobilized at some time during the 18-month period from August 2002 through January 2004 had at least one pay problem. Many of the soldiers had multiple problems associated with their active duty pays and allowances. Some of these problems lingered unresolved for considerable lengths of time, some for over 1 year. Further, nearly all soldiers began receiving their tax exemption benefit at least 1 month late. These pay problems often had a profound adverse impact on individual soldiers and their families. For example, soldiers were required to spend considerable time, sometimes while deployed in remote, hostile environments overseas, seeking help on pay inquiries or in correcting errors in their active duty pays, allowances, and related tax benefits. The processes in place to pay mobilized Army Reserve soldiers, involving potentially hundreds of DOD, Army, and Army Reserve organizations and thousands of personnel, were deficient with respect to (1) tracking soldiers' pay status as they transition through their active duty tours, (2) carrying out soldier readiness reviews, (3) after-the-fact report reconciliation requirements, and (4) unclear procedures for applying certain pay entitlements. With respect to human capital, weaknesses identified at our case study units included (1) insufficient resources allocated to key unit-level pay administration responsibilities, (2) inadequate training related to existing policies and procedures, and (3) poor customer service. Several automated systems issues also contributed to the significant pay errors, including nonintegrated systems and limited processing capabilities.