The earliest predecessor of the Office of the Chief of Finance that constituted a separate branch of the War Department was the Office of the Paymaster General, which was established by an act of Congress of April 24, 1816, and consolidated, with the Office of the Quartermaster General by an act of Congress of August 24, 1912. The Office of the Paymaster General handled and accounted for funds for the pay of the Army; but before World War I there was no centralized agency for handling all of the finances of the War Department. The several bureaus of the Department submitted their estimates to Congress individually, as prepared by their own finance sections and approved by the Secretary of War. Appropriations were voted for each bureau, and funds were disbursed and accounted for by separate finance systems.
There was a unit in the Office of the Secretary of War that had certain overall functions relating to War Department finances. This was the Division of Requisitions and Accounts ( in the earlier years designated as the Requisition Office and later the Requisition Division), the duties of which were to keep a current general account of the status of all appropriations under the control of the Secretary of War; to prepare all papers concerning the withdrawal, repayment, or transfer of War Department funds by requisition on the Treasury; to compile the annual estimates submitted to Congress; to receive all certificates of deposit by Army disbursing officers and distribute them to the proper bureaus; to keep ledgers, appropriation warrant books, registers of requisitions for funds drawn on the Treasury, and docket books relating to War Department accounts; to prepare statements of appropriations, estimates, and expenditures for the annual reports of the Secretary of War; and to prepare endorsements of reference and action for the Secretary of War on claims and accounts of the several bureaus and accounting officers of the Treasury Department.
By 1918 it had become apparent that centralization of War Department supply and financial activities was essential for the efficient conduct of World War I. On February 9, 1918, therefore, a Purchase and Supply Division was established in the War Department General Staff, the duties of which included supervision and coordination of all appropriations, estimates, requirements, and other financial matters relating to the purchase of munitions and supplies. On April 16, 1918, the Purchase and Supply and the Storage and Traffic Divisions of the General Staff were consolidated to form the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division. Among the units of the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division was the Finance Section of the Purchase and Supply Branch. The duties of the Finance Section were to standardize the financial transactions of the War Department supply bureaus, but the Finance Section had advisory authority only. On August 27, 1918, the Finance Section was abolished and replaced by the Accounts Department, Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division, which was established to create an operating organization that would eventually assume the duties of the finance sections of the various supply bureaus. The functions of the Accounts Department, however, were limited to supervision and coordination of all accounting systems and appropriations and other financial matters relating to the purchase of supplies. On October 11, 1918, the Accounts Department was abolished and the Finance Department, under the Director of Purchase, Storage, and Traffic), was created. To consolidate all financial activities of the War Department in his office, the Director of Finance was given authority over and made responsible for the activities, personnel, and equipment of the several finance and accounts divisions, branches, and offices of the General Staff and the supply bureaus. He was also directed to assume authority over and responsibility for the finances of the several corps, departments, and other separate activities of the Army, including accounting for funds and property.
On April 9, 1919, the Finance Service was created as an independent operating bureau of the War Department, to supersede the Finance Department, Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division of the General Staff. The Finance Service continued without a major change in its status until July 1, 1920, when the provisions of the act of Congress of June 4, 1920, were carried out by the creation of the Finance Department under the Chief of Finance. The act provided that the Chief of Finance, under the authority of the Secretary of War, should be charged with the disbursement of all funds of the War Department, including the pay of the Army and the mileage of officers and the accounting therefore; and with such other fiscal and accounting duties as should be required by law or assigned to him by the Secretary of War. In accordance with the Provisions of this act, the Finance Service was designated the Finance Department and the Director of Finance was designated as the Chief of Finance.
An act of Congress approved June 10, 1921, created the Bureau of the Budget in the Treasury Department (later transferred to the Executive Office of the President) and provided that the head of each department should designate an official of that department to serve as budget officer. The Chief of Finance was designated to serve as Budget Officer of the War Department, responsible for preparing the departmental budget estimates and such supplemental and deficiency estimates as should be necessary.
The Office of the Chief of Finance reported directly to the Chief of Staff of the Army until World War II. In March 1942 it was made subordinate to the Chief of Administrative Services, Headquarters Services of Supply (in 1943 the Services of Supply was renamed Army Service Forces). Also in March 1942 the Fiscal Division was established in the Headquarters Services of Supply and the budgetary functions of the Chief of Finance as Budget Officer of the War Department were transferred to that Division. In May 1943 the Fiscal Division and the Office of the Chief of Finance were merged to form the Office of the Fiscal Director, Army Service Forces, and in July 1943 the Office's budgetary functions, chiefly the work of preparing and defending the War Department's budgets, were transferred to the new Budget Division of the War Department's budgets, were transferred to the new Budget Division of the War Department General Staff. The Fiscal Director initiated, prescribed, and supervised all War Department principles, practices, and procedures relating to accounting and auditing and the receipt and disbursement of appropriated funds; and initiated and controlled the fiscal administration of funds of all components of the Army Service Forces. The position of Chief of Finance was continued but was subordinate to that of Fiscal Director. The Finance Department retained its functions involving all financial aspects of accounting and auditing operations; the checking of financial aspects of War Department contracts with industry, universities, and other private institutions (including the Army's lend-lease contracts); the administration of allotments and dependency benefits; financial services relating to civil affairs and military government in occupied and liberated areas; and the furnishing of accounting and auditing services for the Selective Service System and the American National Red Cross.
Since World War II there have been a number of reorganizations. During 1946 the Office of the Fiscal Director was renamed twice, first the Office of the Chief of Finance and again the Fiscal Department, but remained in the Office of the Chief of Staff. With the approval on July 26, 1947, of the National Security Act of 1947, the War Department became the Department of the Army within a newly created National Military Establishment. An Office of the Army Comptroller was established within the Office of the Chief of Staff, and the Financial Department, under the Chief of Finance, also in the Office of the Chief of Staff, soon after became a part of the Office of the Army Comptroller. The Army Comptroller was responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff on matters relating to the business management of the Army and was responsible to the Chief of Staff for coordination and supervision of budget, fiscal, audit, statistical, and management engineering activities of the Department of the Army. The Chief of Finance, under the Army Comptroller's supervision, was responsible for initiating, prescribing, and supervising all Departments of the Army principles, practices, and procedures relating to the accounting for and the receipt and disbursement of appropriated funds. The Army Finance Center, in St. Louis, Mo., was also operated under the supervision of the Chief of Finance.
In 1949, by virtue of amendments to the National Security ACt of 1947, the National Military Establishment became the Department of Defense and the Office of the Army Comptroller became the Office of the Comptroller of the Army, with the Comptroller directly responsible to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (General Management) and concurrently responsible to the Chief of Staff. The Chief of Finance, now directing the renamed Office of Chief of Finance, was again responsible to the Chief of Staff and under the direct supervision and control of the Comptroller only for the statutory functions of the Comptroller.
As a result of a further reorganization, approved by the Secretary of Defense on June 17, 1954, an Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management) was established, and this Assistant Secretary was given responsibilities for budeting and funding, developing and evaluating programs and systems, auditing, and providing financial assitance for private contractors. The Comptroller of the Army became directly responsible to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management) and concurrently responsible to the Chief of Staff. His duties were to integrate the review and analysis of Army programs; to formulate, coordinate, and supervise accounting, fiscal, audit, budgetary, progress, and statistical reporting and report control; and to supervise the management engineering activities of the Army, including the legislative policies and programs pertaining to appropriation acts.
The Chief of Finance, now directing the Finance Corps, came under the direct supervision and control of the Comptroller of the Army. He became responsible for formulating, coordinating, and supervising plans and policies on the provision of finance services for the Army; for providing this service and accounting for all disbursements and collection of funds applied in Army accounts; and for assisting and providing liason for other Department of the Army agencies in presenting cases before the Comptroller General.
The records described in this inventory constitute Record Group 203, Records of the Office of the Chief of Finance (Army), and amount to 397 cubic feet. They date from 1792 and include records of the Office of the Secretary of War, principally of the Division of Requisitions and Accounts, inherited by the Office of the Chief of Finance; records of the Director of Finance; records of the Office of the Chief of Finance; records of the Director of Finance; records of the Office of the Chief of Finance, several series of which are continuations of the records of the Division of Requisitions and Accounts; records of the Budget Officer of War Departments; and records of the War Credits Board. Other records of budget officers of Record Group 160, Records of Headquarters Army Service Forces, in the National Archives. Related records are also in Record Group 99, Records of the Office of the Paymaster General ( a preliminary inventory of which is available); Record Group 92, Records of the Office of The Quartermaster General; and Record Group 217, Records of the United States General Accounting Office.