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Another look at property accountability: regardless of all the good things a commander does while in command, the last question his senior rater is likely to ask is, "How did the inventory go?".

I recently read an article on property accountability that discussed only the change-of-command inventory. I did a little research and found that most of the information available on property accountability deals only with the change-of-command inventory. (Lieutenant Colonel James C. Bates' article in the January-February 2002 issue of Army Logistician is a great resource on the subject.) Certainly, the change-of-command inventory is a critical part of property accountability. However, a commander is less likely to have problems with property during the change-of-command inventory when everyone's attention is on it and the inventory is the commander's only responsibility. Problems are more likely to develop during the next 12 to 18 months, when he has a thousand other things to worry about. In this article, I would like to share some of the tactics, techniques, and procedures that I have used or seen others use to maintain property accountability successfully.

After the Change-of-Command Inventory

Because Lieutenant Colonel Bates and others have discussed change-of-command inventories thoroughly in previous articles, I will not go into detail about them. I only will add that you should keep the records of where things were when you took command and hang on to all your notes. You will be surprised at how often you will refer to them to determine what happened to property. Remember that the change-of-command inventory is the only time in command that you will be able to focus all your attention on property, so set yourself up to succeed.

You must understand that no one will care about your property as much as you do. You may be as lucky as I was in my first company command and have one of the finest supply sergeants in the Army. Or you may not. Your sub-hand receipt holders will be a mixed bag: some will be great at accounting for their property; some will not. So you personally need to ensure that things are done right.

Each month, get a copy of your hand receipt and compare it to the one from the previous month. Have the supply sergeant attach a copy of the change documents that explain each of the changes that have been made. If an item was issued to the unit, ensure that it was subhand receipted properly. Once everything balances, put the copies of the change documents in a folder. If there is a problem later, you may be the only one who has copies.

Next, compare your hand receipt to the sub-hand receipts. The Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS) can produce a report that shows that all your property is subhand receipted, but it will not indicate if those sub-hand receipts actually are signed and the sub-hand receipt holders have accepted responsibility for them. The best way to do this is with a spreadsheet with the line item numbers down the left side and the sub-hand receipts across the top. The last time I commanded a company, I didn't have a personal computer on my desk, so stubby pencil entries directly on the hand receipt worked just fine.

Another advantage to the spreadsheet is that it fits nicely into your smart book. If someone asks if you have a mechanized sandbag filler, you will have that information at your fingertips. Carrying around your whole hand receipt is awkward.

By reconciling your hand receipt every month, you will know that it is correct and that everything you have signed for is sub-hand receipted correctly. If something is not right, you will know that the problem happened in the last 30 days and not at some point in the last 10 months, which would be the case if you waited until you inventoried that item during your monthly 10-percent inventory.


Keeping track of end item components can be a nightmare, especially if you command a maintenance company with over 100 toolboxes. Although you may have reviewed the shortage annexes carefully during the change-of-command inventory to ensure that everything was on hand or on order when you signed the hand receipt, changes will have occurred by the next day. Some items will have come in, and some requisitions will have been canceled. You must have a system to ensure that components coming in are accounted for properly and that canceled items are reordered or obtained from another source.

There are several tools available to help track shortages. ULLS-S4 provides a transaction report that is reliable if your supply sergeant "BLASTs" (blocked asynchronous transmission) information to the supply support activity on a regular basis. The report will tell you what was received and what has been canceled.

The report I found most useful was the Integrated Logistics Analysis Program (ILAP) report. You can do two things with this report. First, if a short item is received, you can confirm that the item was hand receipted properly to the sub-hand receipt holder and that the shortage annex was annotated. Second, if something was canceled, you can check to see if it was reordered. Some orders, especially tools, will be canceled by the supply system because you did not order the minimum order quantity. If you are short only one wrench, you don't need to order 15, so local purchase may be the best way to go.

Shortly after I took command of a battalion, two of my companies changed command. Both had large shortage annexes but nothing on order. The outgoing commanders had done the right thing when they took command and had everything on a shortage annex and on order. But after they took command, everything either was canceled by the supply system or came in and was not annotated on the shortage annexes. Devoting about an hour a month to reconciling your hand receipt can prevent that from happening to you.

Sub-hand Receipt Holders

Counsel your sub-hand receipt holders in writing during the change-of-command inventory or as soon as they assume their duties. Prepare a standard memo that explains what you expect of them and all of the regulatory requirements. Have the property book officer help you prepare this. Some of your sub-hand receipt holders will have no idea what is required of them, so a short memo from you explaining their duties will be a great help to them. Also keep track of when these soldiers are leaving, and ensure that they sign the hand receipt over to someone and that everything is straight before you sign their clearing papers.

That's it. Do these things, along with your monthly 10-percent inventories, and you should stay out of trouble or at least be able to find and correct problems soon after they happen. Remember that, regardless of all the great things you do in command, the last question the senior rater is likely to ask is, "How did the inventory go?" Good luck!

Lieutenant Colonel Robert A. Swenson is the Army Secretary for Joint and Defense Affairs at Headquarters, Department of the Army. He previously served as the Commander of the 498th Corps Support Battalion in Seoul, Korea. He has an M.S. degree in logistics management from the Naval Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Swenson, Robert A.
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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