The American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) National Capital Regional PDI brought together over 1,500 attendees, both government and industry, for a one-day immersive training across a depth of issue areas. This is the showcase event for the Department of Defense (DoD) and those who support its mission in the Washington, D.C. area. The conference theme – simplify financial management for mission & audit – was front and center across keynotes and sessions. This theme resonated strongly with attendees with the DoD committed to having fully auditable financial statements by 2017, which was the deadline established by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. In addition to providing an update on audit readiness and the state of the budget, speakers provided insight and perspective on innovations and trends shaping the future of the DoD enterprise.
DoD Audit Readiness & What’s Ahead
For the past 25 years, through multiple efforts and initiatives, the DoD financial management community has been the primary advocate and champion of auditable financial statements and the mission benefits associated with this effort. Several of the PDI sessions focused on the benefits to the mission that are achieved through the pursuit of an unmodified or “clean” audit opinion. While the short-term objective is to become auditable, it is not the only objective. Auditable financial statements provide value to specific financial management requirements, but they also indicate that a Department’s business processes, enterprise systems, data, and policies are integrated and optimized to support mission objectives and requirements beyond the scope of financial statements. Ultimately, the DoD enterprise should be able to leverage reliable, timely, and complete data for day-to-day business decisions and enterprise level assessment of operations and programs. The audit efforts, over accounting systems and business feeder systems, were strongly highlighted as it impacts the integrity, completeness, and accuracy of the data. In order to make the best use of the data to make important missions for the Department, the process of getting to audit is imperative.
Despite challenges, the DoD is still striving to meet the 2017 audit deadline in every way possible. Every Department and OSD agency is in the process of executing audit readiness programs and have made varying degrees of progress toward established deadlines. While planning and focus on these deadlines are important to maintain momentum, equal importance was placed on developing detailed plans to form a critical path to audit readiness. These plans should address all process, policy, data, and system remediation identified during each department’s audit readiness efforts. Having these plans well documented and in place provides a clear path for Departments, even if timelines shift. The DoD will have a clearer audit roadmap that outlines current capabilities, what needs improvement, and longer-term goals.
It appears the DoD is finally getting past the worst of the sequester and is bringing the future years’ defense programs slowly back in line with pre-sequester level. However, mission level challenges still remain as the DoD must balance readiness and capabilities against challenges emerging from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and international terrorism. As the DoD continues to balance competing needs with limited resources, quality data and information is even more critical to ensure that resources are applied in the most efficient manner to address strategic needs of the Department.
The PDI’s offering of speakers and working sessions was complemented by sessions covering trends in innovation. Key sessions included briefings on successes in private-public partnerships, leveraging big data to fight diseases, and improving security with cloud computing. Attendees were able to gain insights into the opportunities innovation could provide to enable the Department to meet the challenges ahead. This year’s National Capital Region PDI was an outstanding start to a year that will culminate at the National PDI in Orlando, FL the first week of June.