Army says money management system is fully deployed and can produce auditable reports
COL Patrick Burden is project manager of the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.
The GFEBS enterprise resource planning (ERP) project is managed by Accenture and SAP, and will replace 107 legacy systems, 19 of which have been retired thus far. At full retirement of legacy systems in 2016, GFEBS will provide $120 million in savings a year, with savings in excess of $950 million over 10 years, according to the PM office. In July, GFEBS became the first ERP program in the Army to fully deploy, and it provides the capability to manage the $140 billion General Fund as well as the $80 billion Overseas Contingency Operation budget. It can accommodate 52,000 end users at more than 200 locations worldwide.
Burden spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about the program.
DS: What will soldiers see differently now that GFEBS is fully deployed?
Burden: GFEBS will actually impact every organization of the Army that has funding associated with it, such as buying parts and supplies and supporting operational missions, as well as the civilians that support the Army executing the payroll and managing processes in support of our mission. It provides decision support information to the warfighter, and will allow the commander to see how he is using various resources in executing his mission. That could mean the cost of tanks or the personnel to execute a mission at Brigade Combat Teams, or at smaller or even larger elements.
DS: So GFEBS gives a commander, for example, an enhanced visibility into his assets?
Burden: It definitely does. It gives him an enhanced visibility over what he had before because we are currently integrated into a single database. In the past, it was really time consuming and resource intensive to generate these types of reports because of distributed databases across the Army. So now we have a centralized financial management system and centralized database across the Army that allows us to see data the way we haven’t seen it before.
DS: What’s your take on the recent DOD Inspector General’s (IG) report that listed GFEBS as one of the military’s six key ERP programs that are having difficulty with cost and scheduling?
Burden: I think some of the facts associated with the IG report were based on dated information. So two years ago obviously we weren’t where we are today. If you go back and you look at the cost growth and the schedule slips as compared to other ERPs you will see the GFEBS schedule did not change that much. So over the page two years that I have been on the program we have made some substantial steps toward ensuring we are building an auditable system that will meet the legal requirements of being auditable within the Army and Defense Department.
DS: A key concern of the IG was that you could not produce auditable reports. So you are taking steps to ensure that is no longer an issue?
Burden: Yes, when you look at auditability for any of the services it’s not just the system. There are things that program managers have to do to ensure we are building an auditable system that is compliant with certain standards: the Business Enterprise Architecture; and the Standard Financial Information Structure, which is a structure set by the DOD and the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act (FFMIA), and specifies how a financial management system must operate. So if you look at those compliance standards we are nearly 100 percent compliant with all of them. We are 93 percent compliant with the Standard Financial Information Structure. We actually had a team of folks from the DOD come down and inspect the system, and that was their assertion.
We also have an assertion that we are fully compliant with the Business Enterprise Architecture, and we had the Army Audit Agency just recently confirm that we are meeting the FFMIA compliance. We are currently 96.9 percent compliant with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act standards. So those are the things that give the Army and DOD the confidence that we have built an auditable system.
The other thing is we want to make sure that folks in the field are using the system to standards as it is deployed, so we have to ensure that the processes to use the system are also compliant. That’s an effort that the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller) is taking the lead on as they go out and execute examinations to see how the Army is using the system to ensure that the processes are also auditable. So we have an auditable system, we have auditable processes and it gives us confidence that we are meeting those compliance standards.
DS: Have funding cuts affected the roll out of additional GFEBS capabilities, such as GFEBS Sensitive Activities (SA), which would operate on a secure network?
Burden: GFEBS SA is expected to start in fiscal 2013. There will be consolidated reporting from GFEBS SA into GFEBS to ensure we have the total picture of the Army’s financial picture. One of the things that is delaying that particular execution is something we typically go through every year, which is the continuing resolution. We definitely don’t have the funding we need for GFEBS SA yet. But for GFEBS base program, over the past two years we have been pretty healthy, and that’s one of the reasons why I think this program has been successful.