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GAO: Army deployment data flawed
Army Times
August 10, 2007

The Marine Corps and Army lack proper tools for tracking the number of days troops are deployed, an oversight that could affect deploying members' pay or operational tempo, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

A July 17 report said that while the Defense Department has submitted personnel tempo data to Congress since 2001, the Corps and Army don't have the ability to identify faulty data, and they lack quality-control procedures for ensuring accuracy of the data.

Such information is used to determine a Marine's eligibility for extra leave days if he is deployed or mobilized beyond Pentagon goals. It also would be used to pin down eligibility for high-tempo deployment pay, if such compensation was reinstated by the Defense Department.

The Corps tracks deployment information with its Deployed Theater Accountability System, designed to manage, track and account for all personnel, including civilian contractors and foreign nationals, according to information released by the Marine Corps in April 2005.

This system relies on individual units to submit accurate accounts of Marines' comings and goings.

The GAO found that in fiscal 2005 and 2006, after DTAS was developed, individual Marine commands continued to lack procedures for ensuring accurate reporting.

The report also said that in 2005, the Army's Human Resources Command did not properly record such data for 72 percent of its forward-deployed soldiers.

"Service members have several opportunities to review their personnel tempo records, such as when they transfer between commands or separate from the service, but the likelihood that they will actually do so is low because there is no incentive to do so," the report states.

"Since the suspension of the high-deployment compensation and deployment management provisions, several reviews have found that the services' collection and tracking of personnel tempo data have not been complete or accurate, even though the requirement to report tempo data to the president and Congress has remained in place," GAO analysts conclude.

A Corps spokesman was unavailable for comment on the report as of press time.

The GAO report was issued just as Congress prepares to vote on budget legislation that would allow the services to institute hardship-duty pay for additional personnel and increase the maximum monthly payment to $1,500, up from the current $750 cap for high operations tempo pay.

High deployment allowance is an incentive pay created before Sept. 11, 2001, and suspended shortly thereafter. No troops ever received payment for it.

The Army has started offering $1,000 in extra pay to soldiers serving 15-month combat tours. The $1,000 amount includes $200 in hardship-duty pay and $800 in assignment incentive pay.

Pending legislation would make other service members eligible for hardship pay if they were deployed 191 consecutive days or more. It also would change the definition of deployment so that temporary duty or time spent at training or conferences would not count.

Accurate reporting of personnel deployment data would be critical to accurately track eligibility for this pay.

The GAO recommends that the defense secretary direct the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to provide guidance directing the Army and Marine Corps to develop quality-control procedures for validating the accuracy of personnel tempo data.

Personnel officials say such tracking is likely to become easier and more accurate once the services implement the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, a program to manage pay and personnel actions of all active-duty and reserve members.

The Marine Corps is slated to launch DIMHRS on Aug. 1, 2009; the Army will do so Aug. 1, 2008.

Original Text