Editor’s note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
A month into the rollout of its new one-stop human resources platform, the Army is asking soldiers to log in, explore the system and verify what it says about them.
Officials with the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, say that fewer than half of the 1.1 million troops now in the system -- 486,000 soldiers -- have logged in, either using their desktop or the mobile app.
Checking the system is important because there have been a string of problems since the platform went live last month, such as incomplete data or glitches that can affect promotions, duty status or assignments, IPPS-A Senior Enlisted Adviser Sgt. Major Gary Krese said during a town hall conducted via Microsoft Teams on Feb. 23.
"Every single soldier is going to touch this system, so we want you to understand that -- understand the capabilities that exist for you, understand how this can enhance your career, understand how it can enhance your personnel actions, pay ... how it can set up your family on the personal side," Krese said.
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The nearly $600 million program, which is based on commercial software from Oracle PeopleSoft, has been in the works for nearly a decade. It consolidates what once were separate pay, benefits and promotions systems into a single format accessible to the user across the Army and their careers.
Used by the National Guard Bureau since 2020, the system went live for the active and Reserve forces on Jan. 17, following several delays to address technical issues, some of which contributed to stalled promotions.
IPPS-A officials said service members should log in to review their records and, if they see something missing or incorrect, file a personnel action request through the system.
And if they have trouble with the program itself, they should submit a customer relationship management ticket after reading the Frequently Asked Questions or using the search function. Not only will submitting a ticket help get their problem solved, it will help administrators learn of bugs in the system, they said.
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"The more information we have on these cases, the more expeditiously they will be resolved," Col. Rebecca Eggers, IPPS-A's functional management division chief, told reporters during a system demonstration in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday.
Officials said there have been some early growing pains, such as access issues tied to browser choice with users learning that the system works best with Google Chrome, and incorrect or incomplete data where information from an older system didn't convert neatly into the new format.
In late January, 25,000 Tricare beneficiaries were accidentally removed from the health program as a result of an update of the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS; in early February, roughly 600 active-duty officers and warrant officers also were booted from Tricare, likely as a result of an error with the Army's tools for tracking health care eligibility.
Other issues have included omitting or awarding incorrect promotion points for honor graduates, commandant's list or distinguished leaders, a glitch fixed Feb. 20; issues with dependent information, expected to be fixed by March 1; and duty status not reflecting when soldiers come off leave, expected to be resolved in March.
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During the town hall, officials said one of the biggest thorns was that some troops can’t locate their supervisors in the system -- a key component for making personnel requests -- which hopefully will be resolved in March.
Officials also said they are aware of a growing problem with troops being flagged as non-deployable or ineligible for awards based on faulty information about weight control and family care plans.
Eggers said that the system is not randomly flagging individuals, but it has been flagging those who may have been on a weight management plan at some point during the eligibility period for an award, even though the weight issue had been addressed.
"That is a known issue, that we have a defect that I think actually is supposed to get resolved in the beginning of March," Eggers said.
She said that while switching to a new system is never easy, IPPS-A ultimately will prove to be more effective for soldiers, HR offices and the Army to manage the talent pool. One of its biggest features is a section that she said allows troops to add expertise, talents or skills they have that aren't related to their jobs in the service.
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As an example, she cited the case of Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who, while deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division, was responsible for reconstruction. With National Guard troops under his command, McConville said it would have been nice to have been able to tap into a skills database to determine special skills possessed by the citizen-soldiers.
"They were mayors, they were electricians, they ran towns -- plumbers, the whole nine yards," Eggers explained. "Some of that is really to key in on what are the other things that we really don't focus on so much in the Army but do add talent to your force."
Not only does the Army hope that IPPS-A will provide that insight, the service will also be able to easily check how many soldiers it has by rank and specialty, the duty statuses of personnel, and unit manning. Leaders will be able to improve services to soldiers, such as those enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, to ensure that their orders can accommodate their families.
With IPPS-A, troops should be able to ask for leave -- now known as absences -- without the danger of their paper leave request getting lost, and they can change their addresses without having to go to the admin shop.
"In the 27 years that I've been in the Army, I've never been able to update my address by myself. That's been fun," Eggers said.
The system uses the term, "absences" instead of the Army term "leave." Will the language in the system ever be changed?
"This is a commercial, off-the-shelf product, so all our customizations, we've really tried to take a good look at 'Is this big enough that we need to change the name in the system and then have to keep changing it when we get upgrades?' ... Quite frankly, five years from now, it won't have made a difference that people are calling it absences, so we left it as absence," Eggers said.
The Army has published several training aids to help soldiers navigate the new system, which currently includes mostly personnel information with some function to request special pays. The next iteration of IPPS-A, expected in 2027, will fully include all types of pay management -- base pay, incentive pays, Thrift Savings Plan, allotments, allowances -- and will then be a "truly integrated system," Krese said.
For now, however, Army officials want commanders to embrace the capabilities of IPPS-A and stop using any legacy systems they may prefer.
"IPPS-A is the system of record. Leaders, please understand we are getting away from legacy processes. The way we did things yesterday is not how we are doing them today, and it's not how we will do them tomorrow," Krese said.
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