Durable Property Accountability
CW5 Leslie M. Carroll
Recently, the Army G4 (Logistics) published a message to change the property accountability threshold from $2,500 to $5,000. The major point in the message was that property book officers can now drop formal accounting of some equipment costing less than $5,000 and classify the equipment as durable property. This change aligned the Army with the other military services and also complied with Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 5000.64 dated 13 Aug 02. NOTE: Equipment that must stay on the property book is listed in paragraph 2-5 in AR 710-2 (Supply Policy Below the National Level).
As action officer for the Army G4 message, I have received hundreds of telephone calls asking for clarification. Most questions are related to information technology (IT) equipment (computers) costing less than $5,000 and to the perceived weaknesses in Army accountability processes. Most callers assumed that if computers were no longer on the property book, they would come up "missing." I do not believe this is true unless someone purposely steals the computers, which they would do even if the computers are on the property book. I would like to explain my reasoning.
I will begin with the definition of durable property. AR 735-5 (Policies and Procedures for Property Accountability) states that durable property is "property that is not consumed in use, does not require property book accountability, but because of its unique characteristics requires control when issued to the user." That definition does not make clear which items are "durable." I will give hand tools as an example.
The one durable item familiar to most Soldiers is a hand tool. Hand tools are considered durable because they are not used up by Soldier use, as are cleaning supplies, for example. Hand tools are not on the property book. They do require a signature when issued, whether from the tool room or the supply room. When hand tools break, they must be turned in for replacements. Soldiers who lose hand tools pay for the lost tools in order to enforce supply discipline. We must have supply discipline to save Army resources for deployments, training exercises and other mission requirements. Leaders require periodic inventories and the correct hand receipt procedures for the same reason. Hand tools are costly and Soldiers use millions of them. So, hand tools are durable because they do not get used up, unlike consumable supplies such as hand soap or motor oil, and also require some type of control when issued.
Now that a durable item has been defined, letís return to the Army G4 message about formal accounting of equipment. Many recognized that an accountability threshold raised to $5,000 meant that most computer equipment qualifies and can be dropped from hand receipts. Without property book accountability of computer equipment, some surmised that such newly classified durable IT property would "walk out the door" and be lost. Computer equipment is costly, and the Army cannot afford to lose any. Computer equipment consists of durable items, just like hand tools, and must be controlled. Just because an item is durable does not mean Army employees no longer need to sign for the property or care about its use.
I believe the real issue is the belief that if a property book officer does not have commanders and heads of activities sign a hand receipt, no one will be accountable for the computer equipment. Also, there is the belief that personnel will be more apt to steal equipment not on a hand receipt because no one will know it is missing.
How does the Army account for durable property if the property book officer does not put it on a hand receipt? The following is an excerpt from AR 735-5.
Durable property will be monitored by the commander or the head of the activity. Annually, the commander or the head of the activity will conduct a management review of all the on hand durable items to determine whether there are any indications of any missing items, and whether there are any indications of fraud, waste or abuseÖ.The commander or the head of the activity will document that a management review of durable property was conducted, stating what the results were, and what corrective actions, if any, were taken. Documentation will be prepared in the form of a memorandum for record in duplicate. One copy will be retained at the unit or activity, and one copy provided to the next level of command.
The accountability of durable items is not readily apparent in the preceding statement from AR 735-5, so letís look at it from another perspective. How is the commander or head of the activity to conduct a management review? To determine if items are missing, there must be a list to show what has been issued. To determine indications of fraud, waste and abuse, equipment issues and turn-ins must be maintained. Therefore, to complete a management review as defined in AR 735-5, a record must be kept of issues and turn-ins of durable items.
If I were given this task, I would keep a journal listing what was issued, when it was issued and an individualís signature for every durable item in my journal. I am not saying that you have to do it my way; you can do it in any manner that you like. You can use DA Form 2062 (Hand Receipt/Annex Number) or computer spreadsheets. For me, my journal makes it easy to see what was issued (Iíd have a page for each Soldier), what is now missing, and whether there are any indications of fraud, waste or abuse without any fancy spreadsheets or data bases.
Letís look at a possible situation. SGT Clark was issued a laptop, 17-inch monitor, a computer mouse, a keyboard, an L-shaped desk and an office chair when he arrived. All items were in his cubicle at the time of issue. During the last year, he also signed for two different computer software packages (Microsoft Office 2003 and Windows XP) and two more keyboards. All IT durable items were issued and recorded on the supply sergeantís spreadsheet. While performing her annual durable management review, CPT Tory inventoried all of SGT Clarkís equipment as well as the spreadsheet kept by the supply sergeant. She noticed that SGT Clark had used three keyboards during the year. CPT Tory investigates and finds out that SGT Clark had spilled coffee into two of the keyboards and shorted them out. CPT Tory counsels SGT Clark and decides that no fraud, waste or abuse was present. However, she tells SGT Clark that if he shorts out one more keyboard, he will be paying for a new one.
This situation demonstrates the actions required during a management review. It is more than just an inventory. It includes reviewing purchases, issues, turn-ins and maintenance records to ensure no fraud, waste or abuse. If SGT Clark in the previous example had not turned in the two keyboards he shorted out, that could be cause for further investigation.
SGT Clark didnít have to sign for the equipment in his cubicle. He is automatically responsible for that equipment - no signed document is required. With almost 100 computers in her company, CPT Tory asked the supply sergeant to keep track of who had what equipment. The unitís information management officer (IMO) also kept records of computers and software throughout the company as required by AR 25-1 (Army Information Management). CPT Tory ensured these controls were in place so that she could perform her management review and make certain of no fraud, waste or abuse of the companyís computer equipment.
All durable property should be controlled in the same manner. Leaders must choose some method to manage the equipment. Durable property control is an obligation of all government employees. With these types of controls, Army IT equipment will not "walk out the door" despite property book officers no longer responsible for accountability of some durable property costing less than $5,000.
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