The finance corps is the smallest branch of the Army. Its missions are to fund Army, Joint, and Combined Operations; provide timely commercial vendor and contract payments; pay and disbursing services, banking and currency services, and limited accounting on an area basis.
Disbursing Officers encompas all phases of the receipt and disbursement of government funds. Duty in this position increases the officer's knowledge of cash control, internal controls, accounting procedures, and personnel supervision/leadership. Disbursing officers act as agents for the U.S. Treasury. They typically are responsible for the accountability and safekeeping of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and are authorized to print and sign treasury checks for several times that amount. The Operations Officer is the S2/S3 equivalent for a finance battalion. Operations Officers plan, monitor, and evaluate all training done by the finance battalion. Challenges of this assignment include: allocating and deploying pay teams, coordinating and supervising NBC operations, and preparing and implementing contingency plans and operations orders. Senior lieutenants, particularly in overseas locations, frequently serve as commanders of finance detachments and report directly to the finance battalion commander. They oversee the pay, currency, travel, banking, and other support for the areas or installation(s) their detachment services. Additionally, they have all the duties and responsibilities typical of company commanders in other branches.
The U.S. Army Finance Corps originated on June 16, 1775, when the Second Continental Congress introduced a resolution appointing a Paymaster General of the Army. Since that day, the U.S. Army has always been provided financial services by Finance soldiers who were either organized in separate elements or integrated into existing units of the Army.
In 1816, the Pay Department became a separate department. Paymasters usually with the rank of Major, had the principal duty of paying soldiers in the regiments. The Paymaster at Army headquarters computed monthly payrolls in his office and went to the field with his "box" of gold and a military guard. Obviously, payday was not the last day of each month at every site, but once a routine was established, the soldiers could expect payday to fall on approximately the same day each pay period.
The Pay Department remained unchanged until 1912, when, in a major reorganization, it joined the Quartermaster Corps. During World War I, the Quartermaster Corps expanded to such a degree that it had a difficult time controlling disbursing and logistical activities. In October 1918, Congress authorized the Finance Service and in June 1920, it approved the Finance Department to become a separate branch of the War Department under Brigadier General Herbert M. Lord. Unlike its predecessors, the Finance Department handled not only military pay and travel expenses, but also all financial activities of the War Department, including centralized disbursing, auditing, and budgeting. In 1933, President Roosevelt directed that the Finance Department assume the obligation of paying the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Finance Department remained a separate entity until World War II, when it joined the office of the Fiscal Director, Army Services Forces. Under this structure, it took on additional responsibilities such as the sale of War Bonds and the promotion of National Service Life Insurance. After the war, the Office of the Fiscal Director was dissolved and the Finance Department again became an independent Army staff agency. The Army Organizational Act of 1950 redesignated the Finance Department as a basic branch of the Army, the Finance Corps. The Finance Corps underwent further change when, on May 7, 1987, the Finance Corps Regiment was activated.
Today's Finance Corps has advanced immeasurably over the first Paymaster General's Office, not only in size but also in quality of service provided. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is currently building sophisticated systems to enhance finance support in the future, both in garrison and on the battlefield. The U.S. Army's Finance Battalions, Detachments, and Commands provide the best finance support possible to soldiers, families, and DoD civilians, wherever they may be.
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