DOD to enlist tech to fight credit card abuse

DOD Charge Card Task Force Final Report

The Defense Department expects to use data mining to protect against waste, fraud or abuse of DOD credit cards, based on the recommendations of a task force examining recent problems.

Data mining technology, which analyzes vast stores of data to identify trends to someone reviewing the information, would be used to flag questionable purchases. The report also recommends the development of an online system for reviewing and approving card purchases.

The June 27 task force report includes a series of administrative and legislative changes to help DOD improve oversight of purchase and travel cards, said Defense comptroller and chief financial officer Dov Zakheim in a Pentagon press briefing.

Zakheim and Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, will oversee the implementation of the recommendations, many of which will be done on an expedited basis, according to the Pentagon.

The report follows a series of congressional hearings about questionable use of DOD-issued credit cards.

Zakheim stressed that the purchase and travel cards are a critical component of DOD's efforts to cut costs.

"They really are essential to improving business practices," he said. The credit cards save the government about $20 every time they are used when compared to the former, paper-based buying processes.

But Zakheim said that DOD needed to make headway in its fight against credit card waste, which is why data mining technology is important.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Stem, the Defense Logistics Agency's deputy program manager for e-business, said DOD's EMall has a feature that allows managers to create reports that detail how funds are spent. "We track all purchase card data," and EMall can provide reports based on that data.

The task force's recommendations were generally praised. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a longtime critic of government credit card abuse, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is "trying to solve the problem instead of making excuses. This is a giant step in the right direction. The momentum is good, but we still have a way to go before we can claim victory."

Mark Amtower, a partner with Amtower and Co. in Ashton, Md., said that for the most part, the task force has taken "very strong, common sense approaches."

He added that DOD is correctly handling the issue itself rather than having Congress pass new laws. "We don't need more laws," he said. "This is not a legislative issue."

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On the trail

The Defense Department's credit card task force recommendations include:

* Deploying data mining technology to detect suspicious transactions.

* Accelerating electronic billing and certification systems.

* Using metrics to track progress in improving credit card programs.

* Developing and deploying new training materials and courses on purchase cards.

* Establishing skills and grade levels for purchase-card program coordinators.

* Reducing the number of cards.

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 DorobekInsider.com, 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, FCW.com, 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 PlanetGov.com, 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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