Intercepts

The Defense Department is moving to curb its problems with government-issued credit cards

DOD: 60 Days to Good Credit

The Defense Department is moving to curb its problems with government-issued credit cards.

In true Pentagon form, DOD comptroller and chief financial officer Dov Zakheim announced that DOD has created a committee that is investigating the credit card problems and will make legislative and administrative recommendations within 60 days.

"We are not going to let the grass grow under our feet on this one," Zakheim said in a March 27 Pentagon briefing, about a week after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked him to investigate the reports of abuse.

At a recent congressional hearing, lawmakers heard about a new litany of credit card abuse.

Zakheim defended the credit cards as a key part of DOD's efforts to streamline operations by eliminating needless paperwork that typified even the most simple purchases.

"The issue is not to eliminate the cards," he said. "That is detrimental to DOD."

The issue, he said, is how the cards have been managed — or have not been managed. Regardless, the number of incidents is tiny compared to the number of cards and the frequency with which they are used, he said.

BIC Pens More Projects

As DOD looks to keep the credit card program on track, officials on its Business Initiative Council are pushing projects that they hope will help improve the Pentagon's business practices and save money.

The council announced March 26 its latest four projects, bringing the number of BIC-supported initiatives to 32. While acknowledging that similar efforts in the past have been disappointing, BIC officials said that this effort was different because of strong support from DOD leadership.

"The big incentive that makes this process different than all the others is that any savings that the services identify through their BIC initiatives will be retained by them, so they can reallocate the monies to higher priorities," said Air Force Gen. Joe Wehrle, chairman of the BIC executive steering committee.

The latest projects include a plan to streamline the information technology disposal process and an initiative to identify reporting requirements that can be eliminated.

Decision Coming on SBIRS-High

The future of the Air Force's much-maligned Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) will soon become clearer.

SBIRS-High, the second phase of the three-part program, includes a high-altitude satellite and early warning capability, which was flagged for cost overruns.

Pete Aldridge, DOD undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said a program must meet four criteria to continue after such cost overruns: demonstrate a national security need, have no other alternative, get its costs back under control and have management in place to keep it under control.

"And if I can't answer those questions, I will not certify. And if I do not certify, the program, by law, stops funding immediately," he said.

Aldridge said he must certify to Congress by May 5 and that "the Air Force is under process right now to convince me that those four criteria can in fact be met, and if I agree with them, I'll sign the certification, and if I don't agree with them, I will not.

"I'm not going to sign my name on the bottom of a line that I do not absolutely believe I can validate and appear before Congress to justify."

Aldridge said a series of meetings are planned from April 2 to April 26 to update him on the Air Force's recertification efforts. "I didn't want to wait till the very last minute and have them come in on May the 4th to try to convince me, when in fact I may have a question or two. So we want to do it a little bit more logically."

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