Managing Army Property: The Different Types of Responsibility

In 2001, I spent some time as a Report of Survey Officer for a missing laptop computer.  I don’t remember the exact details of the case now (14 years later), but I do remember that a senior E-8 misplaced a government laptop computer.

As the Report of Survey Officer, my job was to collect the facts, interview personnel involved, find out what happened, determine who was at fault, and make a recommendation to my Battalion Commander.  While the process itself was time-consuming and aggravating at times, I learned a lot about the different types of responsibility when it comes to Army equipment.

That experience quickly opened my eyes about who was responsible for what AND that you could be held financially responsible for missing equipment, even if you didn’t lose it yourself!  Needless to say, this experience made me much more “proactive” in the supply arena.

What I want to do in this post is educate you about the different types of responsibility when it comes to Army property and equipment, so you can excel at your job.  I don’t want you to get screwed over, get fired, or have to pay the Army back a bunch of money because you didn’t know anything about property management.

If you read AR 735-5, you will find that there are five types of responsibility.  They are:

  • Command
  • Supervisory
  • Direct
  • Custodial
  • Personal

Below, I will paraphrase what is covered in AR 735-5.  I believe it would be in your best interest to get a copy of this regulation and read it!

# 1 Command – Commanders at all levels in the Army are responsible to make sure that property under their command is well cared for, maintained properly, properly used, safe-keeping and disposition.  This responsibility CANNOT be delegated.  You can have other people help you with your inventories and you can empower your XO and subordinates to help you with supply, but you cannot delegate your responsibility: EVER.  You are also responsible for making sure that your subordinates are doing the right thing(s) with their property.  Ultimately, you can be held financially liable for property that was lost by someone else, so make sure you are proactive.

# 2 Supervisory – As a Supervisor, at any level in the Army, you are responsible to make sure that ALL equipment under your authority is well cared for, maintained, stored securely, and disposed of properly.  You must provide proper guidance and direction in this area.  You must also MAINTAIN an ENVIRONMENT where this is taught and enforced.  Once again, this responsibility cannot be delegated and you can be held financially responsible for missing equipment that was lost by someone who reports to you.

# 3 Direct – This type of responsibility pertains to any type of property you are personally SIGNED FOR.  This includes your OCIE, TA-50, assigned weapon and gas mask, plus anything else that you signed for on a hand receipt.

# 4 Custodial – This type of responsibility typically pertains to Supply Sergeants, Supply Clerks and Warehouse Personnel.  It normally applies to Army equipment in storage, either waiting to be issued or waiting to be repaired/turned in.  Even though you haven’t signed for the equipment personally, you are responsible for safeguarding it and can be held responsible for it. If you supervise people in this capacity, you are also responsible for what they do.

# 5 Personal – This type of responsibility applies to any Army equipment you are using, whether you are signed for it or not.  For example, if you are driving a GSA van, or watching your buddy’s weapon while they use the latrine, or while you are fixing your boss’s computer.

As an Army leader, you have to realize that the Army doesn’t “play around” when it comes to property accountability.  Other than messing up pay, being accused of sexual assault/harassment, or violating the EO Policy, the quickest way to fired from just about any job in the Army is to lose property.  If you don’t believe me, just try it and see!

Whether you are a NCO or Officer, I HIGHLY suggest you take the time to familiarize yourself with AR 735-5 and learn more about the different types of responsibility.  It would even be in your best interest to learn more about supply, so you have a basic understanding of it.   I also suggest you sit down with Your S4 and/or Property Book Officer and learn more about Army Supply Regulations and Unit Supply Policies.  As you move up through the ranks and take or more challenging jobs, you will have to become an “versed” in this area anyway, so it’s worth learning now!

What are your thoughts about the types of responsibility in the Army?  Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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8 thoughts on “Managing Army Property: The Different Types of Responsibility”

  1. In being a retiree if you are less than 6 months of retainability are you authorized to be a custodial property holder?
    If yes any idea where I can find this information.

  2. I read this again and I started asking myself….How does anyone “lose” a laptop computer? Also this was a high level soldier and I wonder how much classified information was on that computer. Do you recall what happened in that case. My opinion is: that E8 should have been reprimanded hard. I also believe that when it comes to computers and such, the government should make them very difficult to access if in the wrong hands.

  3. This kind of goes with the general theme of owning up and taking responsibility of one’s actions. There is no honor and nothing worse than a group who all chime NOT ME. It takes a leader to step up, take it, then find out where the system is broken and weak. A true leader will never retaliate but they will turn it into a learning experience for everyone else so it does not happen again. Some people might complain that it isn’t fair but the team dynamic is only as strong as the weakest member.

  4. I must be honest and say I have found a few things the Army does that I just do not agree with. This is not one of them.

    There has to be “cut hard in granite” rules regarding Army property. By making it “chain of command” responsibility, there becomes no excuses. It really doesn’t matter if you did or didn’t read AR 735-5.

    By doing it this way, Commanders can not allow irresponsible care of property “lent” to soldiers. The fact is: the $#*^ rolls downhill, and that is how it needs to be.

    Hopefully new commanding officers will read and heed this great advice.

  5. I find it so interesting that the command responsibility cannot be delegated. Great policy for holding people accountable, but I could see that being a huge issue if an individual did not take the time to read through and understand AR735-5. This approach coupled with making supervisors responsible for all equipment under their authority shows how serious the Army takes equipment management.

    1. You can delegate things to your subordinates, just not your responsibility. Even if you pass something off to someone else to do, the Army can still hold you responsible.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        Chuck, thanks for writing this!
        Command responsibility is command responsibility, that’s true. And while you should always sub hand receipt everything to your subordinate leaders, you need to remember that you are always responsible! Officers are responsible for everything our units do or don’t do, so why would it change with Army property? It doesn’t!

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