Military Personnel:

Air National Guard Has Taken Steps to Improve the Reliability of Personnel Strength Data, but More Needs to Be Done

GAO-07-1138R: Published: Jul 31, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2007.

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In September 2004, the Air National Guard (ANG) discovered inaccuracies in its personnel strength data for recruits with no prior service assigned to pay groups F (attending Initial Active Duty Training, or IADT) and P (awaiting IADT). Specifically, these data did not reflect an accurate accounting of the number of recruits in pay groups F and P. Those recruits attending IADT work full-time and are paid accordingly (pay group F), while recruits waiting to attend IADT receive pay on a part-time basis at the rate of four drills per month (pay group P). The pay for those attending IADT is much higher than for those waiting to attend IADT, so the effect of miscoding the pay groups on ANG's budget estimates can be considerable. In May 2007, we reported to Congress that although ANG has taken reasonable steps to correct the errors in its personnel strength data, some problems still exist with a key quality assurance tool (the Status Report Card process) and with the reliability of the alternate data being reported while the inaccuracies are addressed. The purpose of this correspondence is to inform Congress of the additional steps we believe that ANG needs to take to ensure the reliability of the personnel strength data being reported for the two pay groups.

ANG has taken reasonable steps to correct the errors in its personnel strength data for recruits with no prior service; however, there are additional steps ANG needs to take to ensure the reliability of the personnel strength data for the pay groups. In January 2006, ANG established its Status Report Card process to monitor the number of errors that occurred at the local unit level in updating the student status codes for training that affects the pay group (F or P). The Status Report Card includes data on the number of errors detected in each local unit's records for recruits in pay groups F and P, and assigns each unit a grade ranging from A through F, with A representing the least number of errors and F representing the greatest number of errors. ANG reported that the number of errors at the inception of the Status Report Card process was 1,431 and that as of February 2007 the number was 531. While these steps may have reduced errors in the data, ANG still cannot ensure the reliability of its personnel strength data because it has not followed federal internal control standards. ANG has not taken steps to ensure the reliability of the alternate personnel strength data being reported until the errors from the official data source (Reserve Component Common Personnel Data System) were corrected. ANG officials stated that they did not validate the alternate data being reported in the interim nor confirm that internal control procedures had been established to ensure the reliability of these data. The Branch Chief for Strength Management and Data Analysis stated that the focus was on implementing fixes to solve the problem, not on adequately documenting the Status Report Card process. This official said that the process lacks control activities, such as edit checks, because the available staff did not understand that they needed to establish these controls or how to do so. Until ANG documents how the Status Report Card process is intended to perform, its effectiveness as a monitoring tool is questionable. Likewise, unless ANG validates its alternate data, it cannot reasonably assure the users of the data that they are reliable. As a result, decision makers within the Department of Defense and Congress may not have accurate and complete information to make informed decisions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to ensure that the Air National Guard documents the Status Report Card Process. The Air National Guard has permanently suspended the Status Report Card process and conducted a review of the methodology and data of the Status Report Card process. The review uncovered processes that could not be validated.

    Recommendation: To ensure that ANG has reliable personnel strength data for these pay groups, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs should take steps to ensure that ANG documents the Status Report Card process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs)

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with GAO's recommendation to ensure that the Air National Guard establishes needed controls to ensure that data fields are updated before the Status Report Card is generated each month. This recommendation is closed as not implemented because the Air National Guard has permanently suspended the Status Report Card process.

    Recommendation: To ensure that ANG has reliable personnel strength data for these pay groups, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs should take steps to ensure that ANG establishes needed controls to ensure that data fields are updated before the Status Report Card is generated each month.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs)

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to ensure that the Air National Guard, in conjunction with the owners of the data, verifies the reliability of the data used to generate the Status Report Cards and the alternate data begin reported. The Air National Guard conducted a review of the methodology and data of the Status Report Card process and determined that processes could not be validated.

    Recommendation: To ensure that ANG has reliable personnel strength data for these pay groups, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs should take steps to ensure that ANG, in conjunction with the owners of the data (e.g., Air Education and Training Command), verifies the reliability of the data used to generate the Status Report Cards and the alternate data being reported.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs)

 

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