A recent report found that despite discovering the problem at least five years ago, the Marine Corps still “cannot fully track” money requested from Congress for training and link that training to its readiness.
The Government Accountability Office report released titled, “Ground Combat Forces: The Marine Corps Should Take Actions to Track Training Funds and Link Them to Readiness,” lays out recommendations to fix the problem.
But those come after it details how the Corps has spent at least $15 million on two different fund tracking systems since 2012, neither of which has fixed the problem and one of which the Corps decided to stop using entirely in March.
This matters, according to GAO authors, because by not fully tracking funds through the cycle and linking training to readiness, it ends up “making it difficult for the Marine Corps, among other things, show that training funds were spent as planned.”
“Second, the Marine Corps has not prioritized tackling the longstanding problem of how to link training to readiness,” authors wrote.
Corps officials first identified the problem through a series of reports on the “strategic health” of the service done from fiscal years 2009 to 2014, according to the GAO report.
They found “stove-piped efforts” and “limited data availability” as major hurdles in their accounting.
Those problems have persisted, GAO authors noted, “because the Marine Corps has not designated a single entity with authority to oversee and coordinate efforts to link training funds to readiness.”
It seems like a coding problem, according to the report. Marines use different codes to program and track funds.
At higher levels, some of the tracking meets expectations. It’s at lower levels where the mystery arises.
GAO authors found that both I and II Marine Expeditionary Force could provide data on their fiscal 2017 budget request at the MEF and division level. But data at the regiment and battalion level was not consistent, “because officials at those levels do not always track funds for these exercises.”
Meanwhile, over at III MEF, staff could give evaluators data for training exercises at unit levels but could not give data on funds requested by training exercise.
A Marine Corps Order issued in 2014 sought to designate the overseer to the deputy commandant for the Office of Programs and Resources.
That should have given the Corps “visibility and traceability” of money through the budget cycle for all units and programs.
It didn’t ― even though the Corps kicked off a tracking program dubbed, “Cost to Run a MEF,” aka C2RAM, in 2012 and subsequently spent $11 million on that program since then.
C2RAM was used by some but not all of the three MEFs and not used with consistency to provide uniform reporting across those units.
At the same time, Headquarters Marine Corps told GAO staff that they built another tool, the Predictive Readiness Model, or PRM, also to link resources to readiness.
An estimated $4 million and a few years later, the Corps has ditched PRM as of March or earlier, stating that the “model did not meet its objectives.”
The GAO evaluators have recommended the Secretary of the Navy ensure the deputy commandant tasked with oversight on this problem develop and implement a unit-level tracking approach.
Also, the secretary should “ensure that the Commandant of the Marine Corps designates a single entity responsible” for achieving an enterprise-wide performance management process that links resources to readiness.
Lastly, the secretary should have the commandant assess C2RAM to see if the system, or parts of it, can be used across the Corps.
The Pentagon and Marine Corps concurred with all recommendations and agreed to make changes, according to the GAO report.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.