The chief financial officer academy: connecting, collaborating and communicating across federal agencies: a twenty-first century approach to financial management leadership.

Author:Ferguson, Adrienne
 
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The Professional Military Comptroller School (PMCS) began operations in 1968 in response to a study on financial management (FM) education in the Department of Defense (DoD). The school's program of instruction was designed to bridge the gap between technical functions and broad financial management responsibilities. Since that time, the school has evolved from a single twelve-week course to a four-week course in comptrollership--the Defense Financial Management Comptroller Course (DFMC)--plus a one-week Defense Decision Support Course (DDSC), in residence or mobile--all tailored to meet the current needs of DoD's dynamic (and tough) financial environment.

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November 2010 will mark a milestone in the development of the federal financial management community. That milestone is the twentieth anniversary of signing the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act into law. This transformative legislation brought about radical and extraordinary changes in federal financial management. In particular, it created new positions of leadership for financial managers that, with few exceptions, had existed only in the private sector.

The Act was unique because it required federal CFOs and other federal financial leaders to connect, collaborate, and communicate in new ways to address new issues such as reorganizing federal financial processes, developing federal-unique accounting standards, and achieving financial statement auditability. Although 20 years have passed, many of the challenges facing the Federal Government then are the same today--especially the need for qualified, capable, and educated federal financial management professionals to lead in the twenty-first century.

This article examines opportunities available for current federal financial managers to address concerns of the day. The challenges today include finding solutions to those issues that continue to inhibit full implementation of the CFO Act, as amended, and the need for strategic leadership across the Federal Government. With the CFO Act in mind, the evolutionary process of connecting, collaborating, and communicating for twenty-first century federal financial management leaders can take place in a variety of ways.

In September 2008 the Federal CFO Council and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) created the CFO Academy. Its purpose is to offer government financial managers a learning environment that fosters the "3 Cs": connect, collaborate, and communicate. The Academy operates within the National Defense University, Information Resources Management College (iCollege), located at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C.

The Academy recently marked the CFO Act milestone by graduating its first four students in April 2010. Those students completed an eight-course program of instruction leading to a CFO Leadership Certificate. The program challenges students to connect, collaborate, and communicate and become future leaders to tackle issues such as:

* Improving organizational performance

* Supporting strategic-level decision making

* Plotting the future of financial reporting

* Increasing transparency and accountability

* Managing tightening budgets

* Spending, tracking, and reporting on recovery dollars Identifying and resolving improper payments

* Strengthening internal controls

* Resolving longstanding audit weaknesses recommendations

Connecting

One of the most important steps in sharing solutions to problems is connecting the right people to explore potential answers. Professional organizations, like the American Society of Military Comptrollers, the Association of Government Accountants, and the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis, provide opportunities for federal financial...

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