Cover: Sustaining Service Members and Their Families

Sustaining Service Members and Their Families

Exploring Opportunities for Efficiency and Joint Provision of Services Using Nonappropriated Funds

Published May 31, 2016

by Kathryn Connor, Carra S. Sims, Rianne Laureijs, Jaime L. Hastings, Kristin Van Abel, Kayla M. Williams, Michael Schwille


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Research Questions

  1. What is a broad framework for effective change management?
  2. What does the framework look like when applied to government efficiency efforts?
  3. Under what circumstances do the recommendations produce cost savings and therefore create a business case for change?

The Department of Defense (DoD) routinely seeks ways to become more efficient and reduce costs. Each military service provides its members and their families with a wide range of services supported by resources that are paid for using congressionally appropriated funding (APF), nonappropriated funding (NAF), or a combination thereof. DoD was interested in determining whether any administrative NAF activities could be consolidated — and, if so, whether consolidation would save costs. DoD created a task force to explore these issues and identified several areas for improvement, ranging from contracting to information technology. DoD Military Community and Family Policy asked the RAND National Defense Research Institute to review the work of the task force and provide an independent assessment of specific recommendations. In collaboration with the sponsor, RAND provided intensive analysis of recommendations in two areas for improvement that the task force identified. Researchers determined that application of consolidation could achieve improvement and savings in some NAF accounting activities, but that there is considerably less potential in the case of NAF employee benefits.

Key Findings

RAND Focused on Two Program Areas for Study

  • The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) task force explored options to consolidate administrative operations performed with congressionally nonappropriated funding (NAF).
  • Of the areas the task force considered, RAND focused on two: accounting and employee benefits.

NAF Accounting Processes

  • Each of the military services independently conducts NAF accounting functions; these include payroll; accounts payable and receivable; financial management; and more. Each function is accomplished using a variety of accounting systems. Based on this, three possible courses of action (COAs) were developed.
  • COA 1 would allow military services to retain independent accounting and systems while adopting the same standard general ledger (SGL).
  • COA 2 would call for an SGL and uniform accounting structures, but also for standard core feeder and financial systems — though they would maintain separate databases.
  • COA 3 would build on COA 2, standardizing all accounting and cost-center structures, as well as the core feeder and financial systems. All services except the U.S. Marine Corps would select one core financial service provider, although there would be no change to field personnel or ownership of financials/programs.
  • All alternatives show some level of potential savings. COA 3 provides the largest potential savings if the military services are able to agree on a single set of requirements.

NAF Employee Benefits Processes

  • Most task force recommendations given to the research team focused on improving communication and collaboration among the services. However, few of the recommendations would result in large budgetary savings.
  • Costs for collaboration and standardization proved to be most expensive of the three categories assessed.
  • Implementation and coordination included personnel time for achieving portability and for process and procedure education and training development and implementation.
  • Information technology and systems collaboration included creation of a collaborative mechanism and website as well as system integration, but not specific hardware and software requirements.


  • Regardless of what steps are taken to consolidate activities, a measured approach will need to be taken to achieve positive results. RAND researchers applied an eight-point framework for successful change.
  • Recognize the need for change. DoD leaders should make a concerted effort to convince service decisionmakers of the need for change, and/or collect data to determine whether change is needed.
  • Provide a plan. OSD leadership will be instrumental in working with the military services to create a plan that is both actionable and realistic in its desired end state and that appropriately builds on the end states.
  • Overcome internal resistance. Without a widespread recognition of the need for change, simple bureaucratic inertia will slow — if not stop — any movement to change.
  • Ensure top management support and commitment. A top-level individual must become the champion for the cause for change from within, particularly to facilitate for the NAF employee benefits domain, but also to continue to facilitate for the NAF accounting domain beyond the SGL.
  • Provide resources. Resources are always important in effecting change but they are particularly so when there is no strong sense of a need for change. Centralized funding and facilitation will improve momentum and allow individual military services to consider options that may cost more in the short term but provide long-term savings across the military services.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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