Pentagon Financial Managers See Shrinking Staff, Swelling Workload

Defense Department file photo

Defense Department financial executives—under pressure to meet the mandated goal of auditability by next year while keeping up with current military operations—are feeling under-resourced and worried about a coming retirement wave, a survey found.

Concerns about budget cuts also raise anxiety about the Pentagon’s ability to maintain and modernize its information technology systems, according to 200 respondents to the 13th annual survey conducted by the American Society of Military Comptrollers and Grant Thornton Public Sector.

Though austerity has been a theme in several past surveys, 82 percent of respondents for 2015 said their workload was either a lot more (47 percent), or somewhat more (35 percent) than in the previous year, while only 6.5 percent felt it was less (5 percent a little less and 1 percent a lot less).

“As expected, the results of this year’s survey show that while staffing to execute the resource management workload decreases (due to retirements and some administrative position reductions), actions toward achieving financial statement auditability have increased the workload,” said Al Runnels, the comptrollers group’s executive director. “The pace and complexity of operations remain high; however, Defense financial managers remain committed to meeting the requirements and providing critical support to decision-makers.”

“While there are challenges and strains due to the current environment, there are also opportunities for innovation and improvement,” said Ariane Whittemore, director of security and defense for Grant Thornton. “The survey shows that many financial managers are optimistic about the future, and about developments in the Defense financial management profession.”

The top three concerns of the financial leaders are budget cuts, workforce transitions and the accelerating quest for clean books. “Many respondents felt reductions in personnel and funding, coupled with other overwhelming increases in time required to build sustainable budgets in the current atmosphere of uncertainty, will overshadow the push to obtain auditability,” the survey analysts said. “Consequently, they are extremely concerned leadership’s focus on auditability will wane and will be overcome by operational necessities.”

In comparison with past surveys, the new survey exposed “a definite shift in attitudes toward the preparation and conduct of the audit of the Services’ Schedule of Budgetary Activity,” the report said. “Many in the workforce now see focus on auditability as a part of the regular drumbeat of their financial management workload. A shift of concern by financial management professionals from attaining auditability to sustaining it was clear from the responses.”

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