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How the Pentagon's payroll quagmire traps America's soldiers


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To catch mistakes, the Army relies mainly on local commanders to review monthly pay figures and report any errors. The GAO found that the Army doesn't enforce the requirement. From October 2011 through March 2012, it said, 26 percent of the monthly reports were turned in late or not at all. At some bases, the rate was as high as 40 percent.

The heavy reliance on paperwork in the absence of unified pay and personnel systems also means that money continues to flow to soldiers who are absent without leave and others who shouldn't get it.

Spokesmen for the military services said that when an individual goes AWOL, the name and other identifying information are sent to the Defense Manpower Data Center, an office under the secretary of defense. A spokeswoman for the secretary of defense's office said the center does not check with DFAS to make sure that pay to AWOL personnel is stopped. It's up to the individual services to notify DFAS, she said, which "is a proven means of doing business."

Commanders often don't bother to notify DFAS about an AWOL soldier, though they are required to do so, according to the December GAO report. Similarly, National Guard and Reserve personnel who leave active duty but don't fill out the required paperwork may continue to receive pay.

Beginning in November 2009, Carl W. Marquis of Burke, Virginia, then a commander in the Navy Reserves, spent three months on active duty at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. When his tour ended, he didn't sign out. DFAS continued depositing full active-duty pay into his bank account for 15 months, totaling $159,712.

DFAS and Navy officials learned of the mistake only after an administrator with Marquis's Reserve unit in Virginia questioned why his name was missing from the unit's rolls. By then, he had spent all but $25,000 of the money, court records show. In December 2011, Marquis pleaded guilty to a "concealment" charge and was sentenced to four months in jail.

Marquis, now a fitness trainer in Reston, Virginia, declined to comment.

I wonder how the Sequester is affecting this. Other than payroll freezes and inability of promotions.

Sad. This is the opposite of efficiency