Those of us lucky enough to attend the American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) National Professional Development Institute (PDI) in San Diego were treated to a bevy of informative speakers during the general sessions. From the Acting Secretary of the Army to a former Army aviator whose story was dramatized in the movie Blackhawk Down, each shared powerful messages that considerably enhanced the PDI.
Wednesday Morning: Mr. John Roth
The first PDI speaker was Mr. John Roth, the Department of Defense (DoD) most senior career financial manager, who was performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). In a wide-ranging address, Mr. Roth laid out the upcoming challenges for the Department, including the new political leadership team and its agenda, audit readiness, and properly resourcing the Department for the world we face.
Mr. Roth spoke about the process of putting the new political team in place at DoD. He noted that the political transition in the Department gave all of us in DoD the opportunity to think of where we are and what we could be doing. While DoD is generally a well-oiled machine due to its professional, non-partisan workforce dedicated to taking care of service members, that doesn't mean that "it's the way it's always been done" is the right answer. Secretary of Defense Mattis is pursuing an ambitious rebuild and reform agenda, and Mr. Roth challenged the assembled body to look around at all levels and push for management improvement.
According to Mr. Roth, the cornerstone of Secretary Mattis' reform agenda is the DoD audit. Mr. Roth said that practice is now over, and he believes we are ready to face the full financial statement audit next year. Secretary Mattis is demanding results for audit, but he is not alone. There is a great deal of outside interest in the results of the DoD audit, as Congress and the public have run out of patience with DoD's inability to get a clean audit opinion. The Department faces a credibility issue with our key stakeholders because of this inability to get a clean opinion, and everyone in the Department has a stake in the audit, and a role to play.
Mr. Roth noted that the audit will help identify processes that need to be changed, and will likely include some wins and losses. We will learn a lot from this initial audit, and we must improve, which includes holding people accountable to get things done. The audit will also help develop a cost model, which DoD sorely needs to better understand the cost of doing business.
Finally, Mr. Roth gave the audience an overview of the recently submitted DoD budget. He noted that President Trump is committed to growth in DoD's budget. Mr. Roth has argued that in recent years there has been a mismatch between missions that DoD has been asked to take on and the resources with which to perform those missions. While the world has become a more dangerous place with the rise of ISIS, an...