The government travel card appeared as a constituent of a program created in order to facilitate the life for the Department of Defense (DOD) traveler. Generally speaking, before the cardholder obtains the card, it is crucial to read a statement of understanding. Numerous personal issues, including frequent salary delays, make the Army soldiers confused with official obligation and personal basic needs. The possible solution for the root cause of the ethical dilemma implies the Army’s capability of in-time salary provision. This can seriously assist in lowering the number of delinquencies. Department of Defense should be held responsible for the implementation of the system of salary and retirement payments offsets for the Army employees. In addition, the encouragement of split disbursement utilization can also resolve the root reason as it has a potential to significantly lower delinquencies through lowering the necessary amount of obligatory payments.
The Abuse of Travel Card
The abuse of the government travel card appears as a serious ethical issue faced by the Army. As soon as the Army started to implement the utilization and formulation of the policy to apply the government travel cards in regard to the travels, the situation appeared as highly troublesome and challenging from the ethical viewpoint. The travel card did not facilitate things significant concerning the effectiveness of paying travel expenses.
The soldiers hold two major types of travel cards: an Individual card and a Unit Impact card. In fact, the card that is abused regularly and oftentimes regards the individual government travel card. The Army soldiers carry this type of cards as their individual ones and are not required to return them to anyone after they lose their actual travel status (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 44). On the other hand, the Unit Impact cards relate to the organization and are typically monitored and controlled by the S-4 shop (Unit Logistics). These cards are utilized by the unit to pay for items, as opposed to the individual ones. For example, group travels incorporating funeral details or prison escorts presuppose the utilization of the unit card in order to pay for travel expenses (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 47). In this case, the government is accountable for payment, and it actually pays this bill. On the other hand, an individual cardholder is accountable for personal payments with their own card; and this the beginning and the root cause of the unethical nature of the issue. Before the card is activated, the person is required to read a specific Statement of Understanding and put a signature to show that the person understands the regulations regarding the card utilization, including retributive and administrative operations in case of lawbreaking payments, misuse, or abuse (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 47). Soldiers frequently obtain an indistinct and ambiguous vision of the official duty. There are numerous factors and courses of actions established, which prevent soldiers from behaving in an appropriate manner with their credit card. Therefore, the Statement of Understanding accounts for the procedures and the accountabilities of the cardholder (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 48). This unethical issue does not merely appear as the Army problem but the issue of DOD. Even with the established systems, the impulse of utilizing the credit card frequently outweighs the consequences in the eyes of the unethical conduct of the cardholder. There are no rank structures free from violations of unauthorized purchases, including the following: officers, the enlisted, and civilians (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). All these groups appear to have a representative who has violated the cardholder agreement in some form and has been caught with this violation. Regular and recurrent violations concern the utilization of the credit card to acquire items when the person is not in the travel status and is located at home station. The Statement of Understanding vividly explains that the credit card use ends upon return to home station (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149).
There are two ways in which soldiers break the law. The first concerns the fact that they ignore the payment option in regard to the split disbursement to pay the final settlement (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). The second concerns the fact that they file their travel vouchers behind schedule, while the actual bill appears to be due before they are paid (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). Therefore, the Army’s individually billed travel card presupposes that a cardholder is directly accountable for all charges on the travel card account, while the monthly bill is provided to the cardholder for payment (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). The cardholder is accountable for equipping an appropriately documented voucher, thus being compensated by the Army for all rational and reasonable expenses connected to the official government travel (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). For this reason, the primary intention of the travel card was to enhance convenience for the traveler and lower the government’s costs of administering travel. Nevertheless, such a convenience appeared as highly unethical in its nature. The actual excuse concerning the appearance of the fact on the surface regards the situation that soldiers have not received their pay, which presupposes that they do not have money to pay the credit card bill (Ludington, 2006, p. 7). The problem here is connected with the fact that the credit card companies regard the cardholder accountable for payment regardless of any existing settlement issues. There have been numerous cases documented with the abuse of government travel cards (Ludington, 2006, p. 7). For example, a civilian in Atlanta was pleaded guilty for placing false charges on 12 government credit cards. He received a sentence of 18 months in county jail and 36 months of probation, was ordered to pay $262,000 in reimbursement and other costs (Pawlyk, 2012, p. 24). In another case, a Texas woman was pleaded guilty for utilizing a government credit card to purchase a TV for personal use. She paid $4,500 in fines and was dismissed from her job (Pawlyk, 2012, p. 25). The situation can also be viewed from a different angle. For example, an Army Brigadier General took a substantial part in person as an advocate and approval authority in an effort to increase the funding on a task order with a government contractor even while actively seeking employment with that company. It appeared as a violation of C.F.R. 2635.604 (Pawlyk, 2012, p. 26). He actually enlarged and expanded the formal travel time period and declared unofficial travel expenses in order to go to job interviews and participate in other job searching operations. The ethical rap sheet demonstrates that he actually violated the U.S. Department of Defense Directive 7000,14-R when he made a decision to charge at least 15 of his temporary duty transactions to his individual credit card instead of his government travel card in order to obtain bonus point or air miles on the card (Pawlyk, 2012, p. 27). Therefore, the issues with government travel card appear to be a result of weak internal control environment, which is characterized by delays in processing travel reimbursement to the Army military.
The personal use of the card also elevates the risk of charge-offs connected to abusive purchases, which are costly to the government and the taxpayers (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). In fact, the charged-off accounts incorporate firstly those cardholders who were reimbursed by the Army for official travel expenses but failed to pay the Bank of America for the related charges, thus pocketing the reimbursement (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 149). Secondly, they incorporate those who utilized their travel cards for personal purchases for which they did not pay the Bank of America. Significant failures in principal inner controls over personally and particularly scored travel cards appear as the main reason of the ethical issue (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 150). The failure appears because of a generally poor control setting, the shortage of concentration on supervision and management of the travel card program, and the shortage of adherence to valid procedures and policies (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 150). These failures have actually contributed to the essential lawbreaking and charge-offs of the Army soldier account balances, as well as a potentially fraudulent and abusive activity related to the travel card. In addition, there are two key control environment weaknesses encompassing the lack of the clear, sufficiently detailed Army travel card policies and procedures, limited internal travel card audit, and program oversight (Gunay & Demirel, 2011, p. 150). First, the units typically utilize the travel management regulations of DOD as an initial source of policy control and managerial direction of the Army’s travel card program (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 44). Nevertheless, in the majority of cases, the existing guidance was not sufficiently detailed to provide clear, consistent travel management procedures to be followed. Secondly, the Department of Defense travel card program asks for ongoing and incessant management focus, supervision, and enhancements performed by the Department. Independent internal audits should continue to be an integral component of management controls (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 44). Nevertheless, they are typically neglected, intensifying the level of the existing ethical issue.
The overall ethical weakness appears through the control setting, which has actually contributed to the design drawbacks and delicacies in numerous management control areas required for an efficient travel card program. For example, numerous problems have appeared as an outcome of ineffective controls over the travel cards insurance (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 44). The policy of the U.S. Department of Defense allows an exemption from the requirement to utilize travel cards for particular groups or individuals with poor credit histories. However, the actual Army’s practice is to facilitate the Bank of America in issuing travel cards to all applicants, while the number of restrictions is highly limited (Bellom, Neson, Spann, Molloy & Goff, 2014, p. 44).
The ethical dilemma of this case lies in the fact that the soldier has nothing else to do except utilizing the government travel card if he does not receive an in-time pay, all avenues of approach are helpless, and his family requires food as soon as possible. Sometimes, it appears as the only method of getting food due to constantly delayed salaries. It does not seem unethical for him to feed his family, taking into account the whole situation. Generally speaking, the Army values and warrior ethos are supposed to direct the soldier to the appropriate course of action, but they typically neglect it.
The possible solution for the root cause of the ethical dilemma implies the Army’s capability of in-time salary provision. This can seriously assist in lowering the number of delinquencies. The U.S. Department of Defense should be held responsible for the implementation of the system of salary and retirement payments offsets for the Army employees. In addition, the encouragement of split disbursement utilization can also resolve the root reason as it has a potential to significantly lower delinquencies through decreasing the necessary amount of obligatory payments. Finally, the Army should also address the issue through the deep analysis of each case, while equipping clear procedural guidance and data acquisition, which may assist in determining the problematic areas and abuses. This unethical dilemma should be appropriately addressed as one little card has destroyed the careers and lives of many soldiers.