New Army system gets a fix on gear

Soon, it will no longer take a yeoman effort for the Army to determine what property it owns

Soon, it will no longer take a yeoman effort for the Army to determine what property it owns, thanks to a new system that enables personnel to track the age and location of the gear the service has bought.

Typically, such data has not been readily available to Army officials, said Margo Sheridan, director of financial reporting for the Army's chief financial officer.

But the Defense Property Accountability System (DPAS) replaces scores of individual proprietary systems at individual locations across the service, said Ira Gebler, a project manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was the system integrator for the initiative.

Property tracking systems enable managers to track who has what equipment, as well as its age and condition. But because of the huge amount of property the Army buys, such systems also play a significant role in enabling the service—and the overall Defense Department—to get auditable financial statements and management data and improve the military's dismal track record in financial management.

The lack of effective systems to manage property has created embarrassing moments for other agencies, such as the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Those agencies found that they lacked adequate systems to track items such as guns and laptop computers.

DPAS is designed to prevent those scenarios. Under the system, most of the Army's old data was converted from its Standard Property Book System- Redesign, which had been in existence since the early 1980s. That data was maintained on numerous files on the hard drives of individual PCs, Gebler said.

Some Army stations were even maintaining their property records in Microsoft Corp. Word files and didn't have a database to track the property. Others used DOS-based systems that made datasharing almost impossible.

The new system, which so far has been rolled out at 194 of the eventual 213 sites, will help the Army track and report on the 7.5 million items that it owns, representing $59 billion in assets, according to Sheridan.

All of the Army's property data is now stored on servers at the Defense Information Systems Agency in Dayton, Ohio. DPAS is a client/server application.

With the former system, there was typically an annual data call for everyone to report his or her property to the Army CFO's office—an excruciating and time-consuming process, said Hillard Haynes, DPAS action officer. "What we now [know] is where things are, how much they cost us and how old they are," Haynes said.

It isn't just acquisition costs, how.ever, that are tracked, Sheridan noted. The system also tracks property depreciation and replacement costs. "It's going to make the job of producing the Army's audit this year much easier," he said.A proper accounting

Objectives of the Defense Property Accountability System include:

* Physical and financial control over Army property.

* Integration of financial and property data.

* Regulatory financial and physical reporting of property as required by Defense Department financial management regulations and by the Chief Financial Officer Act.

* Eliminating redundant systems and costs.

* Interfacing with DOD accounting systems.

* Single point of entry.

* Asset visibility and redistribution.

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