US Army CAER Program: First Year Lessons from the Field.

Author:Smith, Dale

The Army's Command Accountability and Execution Review (CAER) program can be leveraged to enhance enduring fiscal stewardship in any organization by focusing on organizational culture and business analytics.

In the Winter 2019 edition of Armed Forces Comptroller, Lieutenant General Thomas Horlander, the US Army's Military Comptroller and Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller, called upon everyone in the comptroller community to be "peerless stewards of the taxpayers' dollars." His article described the Army's new fiscal stewardship program called the Command Accountability and Execution Review (CAER). (1) The broad purpose of CAER is to increase stewardship by more effectively and efficiently executing appropriated funding while minimizing the likelihood of de-obligations after funds have expired, which results in lost buying power. To accomplish this, CAER introduced a set of nine objective Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) (2) that are derived from the General Funds Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). However, the biggest challenge in understanding these reports was they generally contained insufficient data to conduct root cause analysis of problem areas or identify needed corrective actions. This resulted in countless hours of manual analysis preparing for monthly CAER briefings.

To stay ahead of the monthly demands of CAER and maximize the benefit of this program, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) Resource Management Directorate (G-8) took a proactive approach in leveraging these KPIs. This approach drives wide-ranging organizational improvements across all business processes. We realized that if done correctly, the true power of CAER would be to drive a fundamental change in mindset among analysts. Under this mindset, they engage in continuous, proactive analysis of their accounts, rather than taking a "fire and forget" approach to obligating funds. To accomplish this, we employed a two-pronged strategy to drive changes in culture and improvements in analytic capabilities.

Culture

The first step in establishing the AMCOM CAER program was assigning its responsibility to the command Budget Officer and the execution staff at large. Most financial reporting typically flows through the accounting staff (e.g., Joint Reconciliation Process (JRP)). We felt that because CAER is a program about improving current year execution, it was important that it be managed by the analysts who oversee the current year accounts. This was critical to setting the conditions for the needed culture shift.

We knew changing the culture of the financial management teams to embrace the benefits of CAER would be difficult because traditionally the most important goal was to obligate 100 percent of allotted funds by the end of the fiscal year. With 100% obligation as the goal, of course, during the month of September the entire G8 staff works together to close out the fiscal year with everyone aggressively scrubbing their accounts to produce a clean set of books by the end of the fiscal year. Recognizing the exceptional level of teamwork that occurs every September, we created a CAER roll-out campaign entitled, "Every Month is September." The purpose is to encourage employees to go about thei daily routines as though the end of the fiscal year is...

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