Army tries to restore GFEBS funding

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. March 1, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

To help it move forward with its program to bring sound financial management and accountability through its General Fund Enterprise Business System, Army officials must ask Congress for permission to replace funding cut from the program’s fiscal 2007 budget.

GFEBS is the Army’s initiative to consolidate and reform its financial management systems through an integrated architecture using modified SAP software. The Army is looking to replace 87 financial systems with GFEBS, bringing long-awaited efficiency and integration. About 79,000 Army employees and contractors will use the new system to manage the Army’s annual budget of $110 billion.

But Congress cut the GFEBS budget by $115.7 million, leaving only $21 million in funding for fiscal 2007. The Army has asked congressional committee staff members for permission to restore some of the lost funding by using money from other areas of the budget. The Army wants to increase funding for research, development, testing and evaluation by $56.3 million through a reprogramming action, said Cherie Smith, GFEBS project director.

Pending final approval from Comptroller Tina Jonas at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Army will soon try again to persuade committee staff members to approve the money shift, Smith said.

This is a crucial year for GFEBS. It plans to distribute Release 1.2, which involves deploying the system to the Department of the Army Headquarters, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Army Installation Management Command. Release 1.1 was limited to a testing center at Fort Jackson, S.C.

The Army will be able to achieve the elusive clean audit when GFEBS is fully deployed, officials said. But that won’t be possible until the end of the system’s deployment, scheduled for late 2010.

“This is our opportunity to take a large number of legacy financial systems…and bring them together into a single, integrated financial system,” said Nelson Ford, assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, at the opening of GFEBS’ new facility in Alexandria, Va.

Right now, “it’s on time and on budget,” Ford said. The Army should keep the development simple to prevent issues, he said. The use of a commercial framework will improve the ability to upgrade the system in the future, he added.

The House has no problems with the reprogramming request, said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee. The Senate Appropriations Committee made the original cuts, he said.

“We hope that the reprogramming will be accepted,” Moran said. The recent Defense Department budget requests totaling more than $715 billion highlight the need for the savings that GFEBS efficiencies can provide, he added.

All future systems suffered in the search for funding cuts, but the Army decided GFEBS was too important to be delayed, said Kevin Carroll, chief of the Army's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. The office oversees GFEBS.

The program office is not at fault for the initial delays, Carroll said. “Delays in the acquisitions bureaucracy caused the program to get off to a slow start,” he said.

The timing of the GFEBS contract award wasn’t well synchronized with the program schedule, Smith said. Congress saw this as GFEBS failing to timely execute their budget, she added.

GFEBS is the core piece of the Single Army Financial Enterprise. The Army is also working with the Business Transformation Agency to ensure GFEBS is designed to comply with DOD’s Business Enterprise Architecture.

President Bush's fiscal 2008 budget, released Feb. 5, seeks $53.6 million for GFEBS.

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