Financial Management:

Opportunities to Improve Experience and Training of Key Navy Comptrollers

AIMD-97-58: Published: May 5, 1997. Publicly Released: May 29, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed opportunities to improve the experience and training of key Navy comptrollers, focusing on: (1) personnel practices and the education and experience of Navy officers serving in comptroller positions; and (2) options for strengthening these practices.

GAO noted that: (1) the Navy's personnel practices do not provide a career path for Navy officers to develop and maintain the core competencies needed by a comptroller; (2) by contrast, the Air Force and the Army offer a career path in comptrollership; (3) because of the Navy's approach, many officers in key comptroller positions lack the financial management experience and the accounting education needed to meet the demands of today's financial management environment; (4) slightly more than half of the Navy's key comptroller positions are filled by line officers whose primary occupation in the Navy is in surface warfare, submarines, aviation, or operational staff positions; (5) these officers averaged 17.8 years of commissioned service in the Navy, but only 3.4 of those years had been spent in any financial management position, including their current comptroller job; (6) about 60 percent of the line officers had obtained masters degrees in business-related majors, but due to Navy personnel practices, many did not utilize their financial management education until several years after graduation and generally served in a comptroller position for only one tour in their career; (7) about 26 percent of the line officers serving as comptrollers had no college degree in any business-related field; (8) supply corps officers, while more qualified from a formal education perspective than line officers for comptroller positions, generally lacked the depth of experience needed by a comptroller for the 1990s and beyond; (9) most of the supply officers held a college degree at the bachelors or masters level in accounting or business, but few had substantial experience in Navy fiscal administration assignments involving such roles as budget officer, accountant, or comptroller; (10) they averaged 16.1 years of commissioned service in the Navy of which 3.4 years were in fiscal administration and 5.7 years were in logistics positions that involved some financial management experience; and (11) in a few cases, senior supply corps officers had as much as 10 years experience in fiscal administration.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation, and on July 11, 1997, the Director, Fiscal Management Division, sent a letter to all Navy commands to identify comptroller positions which can be converted to civilian status in order to gain greater continuity, technical competency, and cost savings. This memorandum was distributed in conjunction with the Biennial Financial Management Subspecialty Validation Review process, which required a thorough review of key military comptroller billets with an emphasis on converting or eliminating positions. As a result of this review, the number of key comptroller billets retaining a military officer decreased by 24 percent, to 69 billets. The Navy also reduced the number of comptroller positions that are filled with Navy line officers. These line officers' primary occupations are in surface weapon, aviation, submarine or other operational areas rather than financial management. As a result of the Navy's action, 46 percent of key comptroller positions are now assigned to line officers, compared to a previous 51 percent. Reducing the number of positions that are filled by line officers should enable the Navy to fill its comptroller positions with individuals who will provide greater continuity and who will have greater financial management experience and accounting education to better assist the Navy in addressing various governmentwide financial management reform initiatives.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Navy identifies which key military comptroller positions can be converted to civilian status in order to gain greater continuity, technical competency, and costs savings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has taken action to upgrade the experience level required for the 69 key comptroller positions, all but four of the Navy's comptroller positions now require graduate level education, and 30 percent of the positions now require experience in financial management prior to being assigned to a comptroller position. Further, the Navy has also taken action to upgrade the financial management courses provided to comptroller personnel through the DOD Professional Military Comptroller School at the Air University, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL and the Naval Postgraduate School. In addition, the Navy's guidelines for hiring civilians for comptroller positions is based on the Office of Personnel Management qualification handbook that provides the basic educational and experience requirements for comptroller positions at various grade levels. These actions should help ensure that key comptroller positions are filled with more knowledgeable and skilled personnel.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, for those comptroller positions identified for conversion to civilian status, ensure that those positions are filled by individuals who possess both the proper education and experience needed to meet the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program core (JFMIP) competencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. With the possible exception that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy has suggested that longer careers for officers with critical skills in specific functional areas should be studied, GAO has found little in its ongoing financial audit work with the Navy that indicates that it is likely that Navy will reconsider its adamant stance against a career path for Navy military personnel in financial management.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, for those comptroller positions that should remain as military billets, establish a career path in financial management that ensures that military officers are prepared, both in terms of education and experience, for comptrollership responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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