The Army is reorganizing, and it wants to build its own financial offices staffed by soldiers who will be doing tasks financial professionals at DFAS have already been doing efficiently and effectively. Besides the fact that it doesn’t make any sense to use the military to do the work that civilians can do more cheaply, the Army’s plan would partly reverse a 1991 consolidation that reduced costs while improving accounting and financial functions throughout the department.
Currently, DFAS’ civilian employee workforce performs work for the Army in Indianapolis, Ind., Rome, N.Y. and Limestone, Maine. They are responsible for paying all DoD military and civilian personnel, retirees and annuitants, as well as major DoD contractors and vendors. Thousands of people could lose their jobs, which would in turn hurt local economies and kill jobs. The Army is moving forward with its pilot program by shifting DFAS work to its own financial offices at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Wiesbaden, Germany.
The AFGE DFAS local in Rome, which represents about 960 employees, reached out to its members of Congress to make sure families and the local economy is not affected by the Army’s misguided plan. At the invitation of Local President Ed Abounader, staffers from the offices of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Richard Hanna attended the Army’s quarterly briefing on the pilot project in November. Also calling in was a staffer from Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office who will now be a regular attendee.
The congressional staffers asked tough questions and got the service to admit it has only four months to evaluate the pilot project, a pretty limited time to get anything accomplished. The Army also has fewer than 20 soldiers staffing the Ft. Bragg office. Compared to the previous briefing in August, Abounader said the meeting had a friendlier feel. Mr. Spear, the head of the pilot program, also paid them a surprise visit. Besides getting his members of Congress involved, Abounader was also able to get the issue discussed in the press, putting a spotlight on the Army and the entire process.
This congressional participation will continue throughout the pilot’s review period which ends March 31. Then a congressional review comparing the results of the pilot and DFAS accomplishments performing the same functions will begin.
“We were extremely pleased to have representatives (of the congressional members) in attendance to participate in this and subsequent reviews of the Army’s plan,” said Abounader. “Their active involvement and support of DFAS/Rome is essential to the review process.”
Thanks to AFGE activists, six Indianapolis elected officials sent a letter to then DoD Comptroller Robert Hale earlier this year, asking how the Army could save money from creating its own duplicative finance and accounting office, what the impact would be on the civilian workforce in Indianapolis, and what rationale is there for using more expensive military personnel in lieu of civilian personnel for the performance of these functions. Prior to the lawmakers’ involvement, DFAS wouldn’t formally brief its own employees and the Army had not provided AFGE with a briefing despite a written commitment to do so.