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Financial Management: DOD's Report on Precommand Financial Management Training

GAO-19-86R Published: Nov 14, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2018.
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Fast Facts

Financial management at DOD has been a High Risk issue since 1995, with unreliable financial reporting and little accountability over a trillion-dollar budget. Now DOD is trying to build a cadre of qualified financial managers to lead reforms.

We reviewed DOD's 2018 report to Congress on its training for officers assuming command or other financial management positions. DOD reported 147 financial management courses, and many are offered as part of a financial management certification program. But, DOD left out some programs, such as service-specific training that includes financial management topics for officers assuming command.




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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) in its April 2018 report to Congress, provided information on current training programs available to officers assuming a command billet or a billet directly responsible for financial management. GAO reviewed the report and found that it did not include information on all precommand financial management training available to officers assuming a command billet and billets directly responsible for financial management.

  • Many of the courses included in DOD's report are offered as a part of DOD's Financial Management Certification Program. Of the 147 courses included in the report, 86 of the courses are offered as a part of the Financial Management Certification Program or through a DOD-service provider, such as the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. The Financial Management Certification Program is a DOD-wide training program established in 2013 that was created to guide DOD's financial management workforce training and emphasize key competencies identified by senior leaders in the financial management workforce.
  • DOD did not include some service-level training programs available to officers assuming a command billet. Precommand courses for Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps personnel were not included in DOD's report. Precommand courses vary by the mission of each service, but focus on communication skills, self-awareness, ethical standards, teamwork, and command culture to increase leader effectiveness. Service-level officials stated that aspects of financial management are touched upon in precommand courses, as responsibility of resources and operations of an organization fall to a commander.
  • DOD did not include courses available to Marine Corps personnel in its report. Officials in the Bureau of Navy Personnel responsible for compiling the Navy's portion of DOD's report told us that they received guidance from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) to develop the Navy's input for the report, but that guidance did not include a request to provide any information on the Marine Corps. Therefore, the Marine Corps was not contacted to provide input for DOD's report. 

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD's financial management has been on GAO's High-Risk List since 1995. In recent years, DOD has made progress in improving its financial management process and operations. For example, DOD continues its efforts to address its financial management challenges through the implementation of training programs. These programs, intended to build a skilled financial management workforce, involve the establishment of a financial management certification program to guide the training and development of the department's financial management community.

House Report 115-200 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 included a provision that DOD provide a report to the congressional defense committees on the current education programs used to train those officers assuming a command billet, or a billet directly responsible for financial management. DOD issued its report in April 2018. The House Report also included a provision that GAO review DOD's report and provide an overview of general financial management training requirements for command billets or billets requiring management of DOD funds. GAO describes the information that DOD included in its report on education programs used to train officers assuming a command billet or requiring the management of DOD funds. GAO evaluated DOD's report, reviewed documents provided by the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force to compare course offerings identified in the report with offerings available to military personnel throughout their career, and interviewed agency officials.

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GAO is not making recommendations in this report because it was prepared in response to a one-time requirement. If Congress requests such information in the future, it would be useful for DOD to provide more complete information. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Defense and incorporated its technical comments as appropriate.

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