Navy defends purchase card numbers

Control Weaknesses Leave Two Navy Units Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse

Reports of purchase card fraud at two Navy facilities are over.blown, according to Navy officials, who said they are moving quickly to ensure that money is being spent correctly.

A General Accounting Office report released in conjunction with a July 30 House subcommittee hearing found that too many people at two Navy centers in San Diego have government-issued credit cards, thereby making it difficult to institute proper monitors and controls. The lack of controls in some cases enabled employees to buy computers, flat-panel monitors and high-end Coach briefcases.

The GAO report said 36 percent of personnel at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and 16 percent of personnel at the Naval Supply Systems Command were given the purchase cards, which are credit cards that can be used for official government purchases of less than $2,500.

Navy officials defended the program and said purchase cards have streamlined ordering processes by eliminating reams of paperwork for small-ticket items.

Capt. John Surash, commander of the Navy Public Works Center in San Diego, said he recently instituted reforms of the center's purchase card program that include reducing the number of people with cards. "It is much improved over what the GAO saw when they did their review," he told lawmakers.

Navy officials argued that some of the items that GAO listed as unnecessary can be justified. Flat-panel monitors, for example, use less space on already crowded ships and use less energy in power-starved California, officials said.

Although there were some problems — the Coach briefcase, for example — those have been addressed, officials said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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