By Mark Orders-Woempner
In a quest to bring the Defense Department’s three separate stored-value cards into one, representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps journeyed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to plan their way forward with the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service in early August.
Several years ago, Fiscal Service and the DOD decided on a single card initiative, known as the One-Card Initiative, to combine the current stored-value cards into one that would be industry compliant, improve security and leverage cost savings through economies of scale, said Tony Taylor, the U.S. Army Financial Management Command EagleCash program manager.
What’s Currently in Use
Currently, the DOD uses three distinct stored-value cards, which include non-reloadable EZpay cards, to optimize training time at initial entry training sites and reloadable EagleCash and Navy Cash cards for deployed personnel as a secure alternative to hard currency. A rebranded and new EagleCash card will be the one to replace all DOD stored-value cards.
“Our collective movement toward a unified SVC has been an organizational priority for Fiscal Service,” said Ronda Kent, Fiscal Service assistant commissioner for payment management. “The next-generation EagleCash will be a driver for cost savings and increased operational efficiency for us all.”
When Changes Will Come
During their most recent meeting, the stakeholders laid out a plan for deployment, including releasing the cards to initial training sites later this year and issuing them to deployers in the first part of 2020. Software and hardware capable of handling both the current cards and the new EagleCash will be deployed around the globe this fall.
“The goal with the new EagleCash card is to right size with a common platform that gives more flexibility and reduces duplication of efforts,” explained Chris Ritchie, Federal Reserve Bank Boston Treasury Services SVC program vice president.
Once the new EagleCash card is deployed, a majority of service members will be issued one upon entry into the military at their initial entry training site. That same card they use initially to purchase uniforms and other items for basic training will follow them through their career, and they will be able to load and use it as they deploy.
“When this goes live, we expect a seamless transition for the cardholders,” said Taylor, who added that troops currently use the legacy EagleCash instead of their debit or credit cards in contingency areas of operation that tend to lack financial and communication infrastructure.
How Consolidation Improves Security
“The new EagleCash cards keep service members’ bank accounts completely separate from their purchases,” Taylor explained. “Not only does this give them peace of mind, it keeps them in the fight instead of standing in line waiting at a finance office to get cash.”
EagleCash also significantly reduces U.S. dollars in the battlespace where they can be leaked from vendors to enemies, which can turn into weapons coming over the fence aimed at our troops,” Taylor added.
At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in 2004, the Army collected and processed more than $480 million in U.S. cash in theater. Today, EagleCash has reduced that number to near zero.
How It Helps Save Money
Not only does EagleCash potentially save lives, it also saves money. The Army estimates it has saved approximately $225 million since the program’s inception.
Treasury’s Fiscal Service, DOD and Federal Reserve Bank leaders indicated they hope those savings will grow even more once all three cards are consolidated.
“We have a number of former service men and women that used these stored-value cards in the field now working on the program,” said Todd Aadland, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City senior vice president, whose team will be taking over the administration of certain back-office elements of the new-EagleCash card program. “They understand the importance of their mission and display it proudly when they come to work.
“Not only will we be able to reduce our manpower footprint through combining the stored-value cards into a single program,” Aadland continued, “we will see efficiency, flexibility and usability gains through the use of a common technology stack.”
Nearly all the stakeholders said their primary focus was supporting service members, first and foremost.
“Our customers truly are the men and women in uniform who carry these cards,” said Kent. “We take great pride in taking care of them and giving them our absolute best. They deserve it.”
A direct reporting unit to the assistant secretary of the Army for financial management & comptroller, U.S. Army Financial Command, provides finance support and liaison on matters pertaining to the adequacy of finance policies, systems and reporting requirements to Army commands, component commands, direct reporting units, installations, tactical units and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
USAFMCOM also performs unique Armywide actions such as financial management unit technical training, electronic commerce and classified finance and accounting oversight. The command is also responsible for the delivery of Armywide financial management functions including enterprise resource planning systems support, audit and compliance support, financial operations support, enterprise resource planning business process standardization support and Army field financial management activities operational oversight.
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