Mike McCord, member of the National Defense Strategy Commission and former comptroller at the Defense Department, discusses how a transaction database could assist in future auditing at the Pentagon, and why it’s important that it provide information, and not just data.
The Department of Defense is building a new kind of database tool for their management workforce. Coming on the heels of last year’s DoD audit, the database will let Pentagon accountants keep track of the department’s transactions, and look for discrepancies. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said that the database is “critical for accountability.” Mike McCord, member of the National Defense Strategy Commission and former comptroller at the Defense Department, told Government Matters that usability is important for a database of this scale. “The key would be, is it full of data or can you get information from it? By which I mean, if you take the federal procurement data system and you want to find all the contracts related to the F-18. If you type in your criteria, are you going to get a long list of things?” McCord said. “First of all, things have to be coded correctly so you can sort the way you want to sort; can you make sense of it? Can you manipulate it?… There’s a lot of data around the department. Can you compile it into information that’s useful?” McCord says that the implementation of the database could run into cultural issues, like previous Defense Department tools. “It will be interesting to see if it works as intended, if there’s a cultural challenge,” McCord said. “I have seen this in the readiness area, where the tools that were meant to make readiness visible to someone who worked for the secretary to drill down into the army and see [readiness.] The particular service didn’t necessarily like the people. They want to present the information with the context from their perspective.”