An aerial view of the Pentagon

The Marine Corps[1] this week became the first military branch ever to pass a complete financial audit, a Defense Department official confirmed Friday, having successfully accounted for more than $46.3 billion in assets and marking the end of a two-year effort.

Independent accountants contracted by the Defense Department issued an "unmodified opinion" on the Marine Corps' fiscal 2023 financial statement, meaning the information given was as correct as can be proved, the service said.

In 2017, the Marine Corps became the first military service within the Defense Department to undergo a full financial audit[2], which at the time meant sifting through more than 4,300 sample items and 30,000 documents. Verifying similar items in a 2012 limited audit included a trip to Afghanistan. Ultimately, the service failed to pass either previous attempt.

Read Next: Marine Corps F-35 Takes Nosedive in Hangar While Being Used by Navy Top Gun School[3]

In 2023, it meant going to more than 70 sites worldwide to look at thousands of real property assets; more than a million other operating assets, such as vehicle spare parts and weapons and communications systems; and more than 24 million rounds of ammunition -- sometimes within Army[4] and Navy[5] stockpiles where the Marine Corps had property stored.

"We had to have documentation for that asset, in addition to the auditors having to view those assets and count those assets,” Gregory Koval, the assistant deputy commandant for resources, said in an interview Friday with Military.com. “So, not just numbers, not just systems, not just data, but they were actually evaluating what we have on hand, what we have on site, and if something was not there, we had to provide them with information to show where it was."

"We celebrate the tremendous success the Marine Corps achieved in receiving the first clean audit across military branches in DoD," Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a DoD spokesman, said in an email to Military.com.

This year's preliminary audit results found that the Marine Corps reduced unsupported, undistributed transactions from $2.2 billion in October 2022 to less than $500,000 in March 2023, thereby supporting "more effective leadership decisions," Michael McCord, chief financial officer for the Defense Department, said in a press release.

The Corps will hypothetically be able to better focus on modernizing its workforce following the clean audit. According to the Marines' Force Design plan, that includes evolving from a more traditional ground force to one that frequently deploys unmanned aerial and ground systems, advanced air defenses and anti-ship missiles.

The successful completion of a financial audit may sound like nothing more than a bookkeeping checkoff. But when the Marine Corps passed a limited audit in 2013, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel threw a banquet in the famed Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, a room dedicated to the courageous service members who have received Medals of Honor.

That success was later revoked in 2015 after the Pentagon inspector general said the Marine Corps' suspense accounts within the Defense Finance and Accounting Service had not been properly assessed. Suspense accounts are where entries are held temporarily while their classification is determined.

Corps leaders made it a personal goal to be able to add "first to pass a full financial audit" to their famous "first to fight" slogan.

"It was a goal of the commandant of the Marine Corps to pass the audit because he wants to show the credibility of the Marine Corps back to the Congress and the taxpayer," Assistant Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources Edward Gardiner said in a Friday interview. "The benefit to the rest of DoD for the Marine Corps getting a clean opinion today is that we've been all the way to the end of the process, and we have lessons learned that we can share with the rest of the department."

For the DoD as a whole, which has never passed a department-wide audit, a successful one would mean a greater likelihood of a more accurate defense spending budget, as top leadership debates whether more resources should be allocated to recruiting[6], modernization of weapons or troop pay.

It also will determine how the U.S. can continue to support its allies, McCord said. "Our efforts to track, coordinate and quickly deliver security systems to our allies and partners in Ukraine and now Israel [are] closely related to the work across the DoD enterprise on readiness," he said.

Overall, the Defense Department claimed $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities in its 2023 financial statement audit.

McCord said in November that the Marine Corps was given an extension until March 1 on its audit, as the smallest military branch was serving as a case study for the Pentagon.

"Whatever results of that may be when we get the auditor's final opinion," McCord said in November, "I want to commend the USMC and in particular (Marine Commandant Gen.) Eric Smith for their leadership and effort."

-- Rachel Nostrant is a Marine Corps veteran and freelance journalist, with work published in Reuters, New York Magazine, Military Times and more.

Related: After False Start, Marines Aim to Be First Service to Pass Audit[7]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[8].

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Located on Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital was named for Col. Florence A. Blanchfield. She was the first woman to receive a Regular Army commission and was the first director with the title ‘Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.’

The Department of Veterans Affairs[1] on Friday announced the opening of its newest health clinic -- a facility inside Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell[2], Kentucky, which could serve up to 50,000 veterans in that state and Tennessee.

The facility is the second co-located with a Defense Department hospital, a partnership the VA said could expand its footprint by 13 more facilities at military bases in the U.S.

Fort Campbell and Clarksville, Tennessee, have the largest and most rapidly expanding veteran population in the region, with more than 21,000 former service members currently enrolled in VA health care and an additional 29,100 who are eligible, according to the VA.

Read Next: Vets Say Weight Loss Drugs Have Improved Their Health, But New Patients Are Out of Luck[3]

"The median age of our VA hospitals is nearly 60 years, and so while we are working to modernize them, we are also doing things simultaneously like these partnerships to make sure we are supporting veterans with the right facilities at the right place at the right time in the right part of the country," Al Montoya, the VA deputy assistant under secretary for health for operations, said during a press call with reporters Thursday.

The VA and DoD have more than 176 sharing agreements in place at facilities and jointly operate the Capt. James Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. The latest round of partnerships began in October at Naval Hospital Pensacola, where the VA maintains a clinic and has an agreement to share operating room space.

In the coming months, the VA plans to formally open a clinic at the Air Force[4]'s 6th Medical Group Sabal Park Clinic in Tampa, part of MacDill Air Force Base[5]'s health system.

At Fort Campbell, eligible veterans should have access to dental care, women's health services, intensive care and pain management, according to VA officials. Fifteen VA employees and 10 Fort Campbell staff members will provide care and services to the vets.

Since 2017, the Defense Department has launched reforms to focus the services' medical commands on care for military personnel while managing medical services for family members and retirees under the umbrella of Tricare[6], the DoD's private health program, or in military treatment facilities, depending on location or availability.

As part of those reforms, the Defense Department announced in 2020 that it would downsize its medical facilities system[7], making 38 facilities available only to active-duty military personnel, downsizing four hospitals and closing three clinics, including the Sabal Park site in Tampa.

That plan was expected to send at least 200,000 retirees and military family members to the private sector for care.

The reforms were introduced to curb costs and focus military medicine on care for military personnel in garrison and combat operations.

The plan backfired, however. In a memo issued last December, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the realignment and "ambitious private-sector care capacity assumptions" led to chronically understaffed military treatment facilities in which providers weren't able to sustain their skills or deliver timely care.

At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for example, the daily patient load dropped by 43% last year.

To address the problems, Hicks announced a plan to bring at least 7%[8] of military health care beneficiaries back into military hospitals by the end of 2026.

"Our provider force, both civilian and military, has shrunk too much, risking the hollowing of our [military health system]. ... The situation has been years in the making based on assumptions that aren't true," Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said during a federal health care conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, this month.

The DoD has announced partnerships in numerous locations to ensure that its clinicians can keep up their skills. Numerous military treatment facilities have become trauma centers in their locations, taking civilian patients who need acute emergency care.

Montoya said that the veterans who go to clinics like the Fort Campbell facility will be seen by VA staff, but if there are other resources offered, VA patients may have opportunities to be seen in military specialty clinics.

"It really has that menu of opportunities for our veterans to be seen in many cases by the VA; in other cases, vice versa. It's a two-way street," Montoya said.

In a statement, Martinez-Lopez said that the arrangement will not affect quality or access to care for DoD beneficiaries.

"Not only does it provide increased opportunities to care for those who have sacrificed so much for this country, but it helps our medical professionals maintain their readiness skills. It is a win-win for all those involved," Martinez-Lopez said.

Related: Millions of Vets Got Health Care and Benefits Under the PACT Act. Thousands Left Out Want the Same Chance.[9]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[10].

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Located on Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital was named for Col. Florence A. Blanchfield. She was the first woman to receive a Regular Army commission and was the first director with the title ‘Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.’

The Department of Veterans Affairs[1] on Friday announced the opening of its newest health clinic -- a facility inside Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell[2], Kentucky, which could serve up to 3,000 veterans in that state and Tennessee.

The facility is the second co-located with a Defense Department hospital, a partnership the VA said could expand its footprint by 13 more facilities at military bases in the U.S.

Fort Campbell and Clarksville, Tennessee, have the largest and most rapidly expanding veteran population in the region, with more than 21,000 former service members currently enrolled in VA health care and an additional 29,100 who are eligible, according to the VA.

Read Next: Vets Say Weight Loss Drugs Have Improved Their Health, But New Patients Are Out of Luck[3]

Over the next three years, the VA plans to establish three new outpatient clinics to serve veterans from these areas as well as Cookeville and Nashville, Tennessee.

"The median age of our VA hospitals is nearly 60 years, and so while we are working to modernize them, we are also doing things simultaneously like these partnerships to make sure we are supporting veterans with the right facilities at the right place at the right time in the right part of the country," Al Montoya, the VA deputy assistant under secretary for health for operations, said during a press call with reporters Thursday.

The VA and DoD have more than 176 sharing agreements in place at facilities and jointly operate the Capt. James Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. The latest round of partnerships began in October at Naval Hospital Pensacola, where the VA maintains a clinic and has an agreement to share operating room space.

In the coming months, the VA plans to formally open a clinic at the Air Force[4]'s 6th Medical Group Sabal Park Clinic in Tampa, part of MacDill Air Force Base[5]'s health system.

At Fort Campbell, eligible veterans should have access to dental care, women's health services, intensive care and pain management, according to VA officials. Fifteen VA employees and 10 Fort Campbell staff members will provide care and services to the vets.

Since 2017, the Defense Department has launched reforms to focus the services' medical commands on care for military personnel while managing medical services for family members and retirees under the umbrella of Tricare[6], the DoD's private health program, or in military treatment facilities, depending on location or availability.

As part of those reforms, the Defense Department announced in 2020 that it would downsize its medical facilities system[7], making 38 facilities available only to active-duty military personnel, downsizing four hospitals and closing three clinics, including the Sabal Park site in Tampa.

That plan was expected to send at least 200,000 retirees and military family members to the private sector for care.

The reforms were introduced to curb costs and focus military medicine on care for military personnel in garrison and combat operations.

The plan backfired, however. In a memo issued last December, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the realignment and "ambitious private-sector care capacity assumptions" led to chronically understaffed military treatment facilities in which providers weren't able to sustain their skills or deliver timely care.

At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for example, the daily patient load dropped by 43% last year.

To address the problems, Hicks announced a plan to bring at least 7%[8] of military health care beneficiaries back into military hospitals by the end of 2026.

"Our provider force, both civilian and military, has shrunk too much, risking the hollowing of our [military health system]. ... The situation has been years in the making based on assumptions that aren't true," Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said during a federal health care conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, this month.

The DoD has announced partnerships in numerous locations to ensure that its clinicians can keep up their skills. Numerous military treatment facilities have become trauma centers in their locations, taking civilian patients who need acute emergency care.

Montoya said that the veterans who go to clinics like the Fort Campbell facility will be seen by VA staff, but if there are other resources offered, VA patients may have opportunities to be seen in military specialty clinics.

"It really has that menu of opportunities for our veterans to be seen in many cases by the VA; in other cases, vice versa. It's a two-way street," Montoya said.

In a statement, Martinez-Lopez said that the arrangement will not affect quality or access to care for DoD beneficiaries.

"Not only does it provide increased opportunities to care for those who have sacrificed so much for this country, but it helps our medical professionals maintain their readiness skills. It is a win-win for all those involved," Martinez-Lopez said.

Editor's Note: This story was corrected to reflect the accurate number of veterans who will be served by the Fort Campbell VA Clinic. A VA press release on the new facility provided data on the number of veterans residing in the region, not the clinic's capacity.

Related: Millions of Vets Got Health Care and Benefits Under the PACT Act. Thousands Left Out Want the Same Chance.[9]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[10].

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A group of professional baseball players and armed forces senior leaders stand on steps outdoors.Former Washington Nationals pitcher and pitching strategist Sean Doolittle led a team of Nationals personnel and military officials to Arlington National Cemetery on Feb. 2, to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and honor Negro League baseball

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