DOD Accounting Systems:

Efforts to Improve System for Navy Need Overall Structure

AIMD-96-99: Published: Sep 30, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's (DFAS) efforts to reduce the number of Navy accounting systems and to enhance and implement a Navy-wide system to account for general fund operations.

GAO found that: (1) DFAS selected the Navy's Standard Accounting and Reporting System (STARS) to serve as the Navy's system for general fund accounting; (2) although believed to be the newest, least deficient, and most advanced of the Navy's 25 existing general fund accounting systems, STARS still has serious shortcomings; (3) savings will accrue as a result of eliminating duplicate and inefficient accounting systems, but could be diminished by the need to provide additional training and technical support; (4) STARS was selected without the benefit of an established architecture, and the lack of a target systems architecture will make it difficult to guide STARS enhancement efforts, estimate enhancement costs, and evaluate alternatives that may be more effective or less expensive; (5) the STARS Plan of Action and Milestones did not include several key analysis tasks and accounting requirements, and several instances of incomplete planning and slipped milestones strongly suggest that STARS enhancements will not meet Department of Defense (DOD) requirements; (6) this piecemeal approach to STARS enhancement could result in costly and time-consuming redesign efforts; and (7) implementation of STARS at field-level activities was not completely successful, since DFAS provided limited training and insufficient technical support.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DOD IG reports that (1) STARS is now a fully operational system with a documented architecture of current interfaces, processes, and procedures (except for the Navy owned logistics systems) and (2) as new enhancements are added to STARS they will be added to the target architecture. Also, DOD reports that DFAS has completed documentation for approving STARS for milestone III of the MAISRC process. However, it remains unclear whether the implemented architecture for STARS represents an effectively integrated system as called for by the GAO recommendation. GAO will evaluate the status of STARS implementation during the course of its planned financial audit work.

    Recommendation: To increase the likelihood that the STARS enhancement project will result in an efficient, effective, and integrated Navy general fund accounting system, the Under Secretary for Defense (Comptroller), in conjunction with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller), should expeditiously develop a target STARS architecture. As part of this process, the Comptroller should: (1) identify the economic and technical risks associated with the implementation of STARS enhancements; (2) develop a plan to avoid or mitigate these risks; and (3) obtain the Major Automated Information Systems Review Council's assessment and approval. Until this architecture is complete, the Comptroller should cease the funding of enhancements to STARS components that add new functions to STARS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DODIG reports that a Plan Of Action & Milestones is part of the DFAS automated strategic plan and is updated continuously to reflect the most current status of actions taken to implement STARS. However, it remains uncertain whether the STARS plan of action addresses the key concerns raised in GAO's recommendation. GAO will evaluate STARS system implementation during its planned financial audit effort.

    Recommendation: Once a target STARS architecture has been developed and approved, the Director, DFAS, should enhance its Plan of Action and Milestones to ensure that it contains: (1) the steps that will have to be taken to achieve this architecture, including key analysis tasks which relate to how STARS modules will meet the key accounting requirements; (2) the parties responsible for performing these steps; and (3) realistic milestones.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Finance and Accounting Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD IG reports that the STARS program management office is providing ongoing systems and functional training through an established training program, and is providing implementation training following STARS conversions and deployments. GAO will evaluate the reported STARS training efforts as part of its planned financial audit work to determine the extent and effectiveness of the reported training.

    Recommendation: To improve STARS Field Level's day-to-day operations at the field level, the Director, DFAS, should provide additional user training, particularly in functions that allow users to use the system more effectively and efficiently.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Finance and Accounting Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DFAS expanded its STARS Customer Help Center, which is centralized at the Defense Mega Center in Mechanicsburg, PA, with new customer help procedures and tools to improve coordination and problem resolution. This help desk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Recommendation: To improve STARS Field Level's day-to-day operations at the field level, the Director, DFAS, should provide a central focal point for enhanced technical support through such means as establishing a hot line staffed by knowledgeable personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Finance and Accounting Service


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