Interview of Rear Admiral Thomas Allan, Jr
Assistant Commandant for Resources and Chief Financial Officer, U. S. Coast Guard
On 26 February 2020, the Executive Director of ASMC, Al Runnels had the pleasure of interviewing Rear Admiral Thomas Allan, Jr., the Assistant Commandant for Resources and Chief Financial Officer of the United States Coast Guard, regarding the strategy and priorities associated with the Service's financial management operations.
Mr. Runnels: Admiral Allan, thank you for your service and also for sharing a portion of your valuable time with the readers of our Armed Forces Comptroller journal.
RDML Allan: Thanks Al. I'm happy to talk with you about our financial operations and the great people we have supporting our Coast Guard mission.
Mr. Runnels: I'd like to begin by asking about your strategy, as the Coast Guard Chief Financial Officer, in supporting the Coast Guard enterprise and the Service's operational requirements.
RDML Allan: We have had a consistent strategy over the last several years. We have really worked hard in driving financial success in the audit. After having achieved our clean audit opinion, we continued to work on process improvement, internal controls, and the actions necessary to sustain it from year to year. So our strategy going forward: we're looking at a growing national debt, and we're looking at "hard toplines" for the Service, so for any dollar we put into the Coast Guard, we've got to make sure our mission support organization, especially the financial management community, is streamlined to be able to deliver the operations the nation really needs. We have taken a hard look at the mission support structure, and also the efficiencies we can find in financial management; to make sure it is at the "right level" with the "right new tools" and the "right new processes" to be able to deliver the supplies and services the operators need.
Mr. Runnels: What do you see as the significant challenges in achieving Coast Guard financial management goals and objectives?
RDML Allan: I think anytime you set goals that will require change, it's that "change" that you've got to lead people through. For us it's setting the vision, it's providing quantitative measures to show people the successes we've achieved thus far, and then to listen to modify the approach and the processes going forward. I don't think you're always going to get everything right the first time--we like the term "spiral development" to provide the opportunity for us to get better and better as we move forward with a mix of what the customers want and what the finance professionals see as the best way to meet that as a team.
Mr. Runnels: Admiral, please talk a bit about how you feel current year budget execution is going and also what your perspectives are on the Fiscal Year 2021 Coast Guard budget.
RDML Allan: Thanks for the question on where we are with FY2020 and perspectives about our FY2021 budget submission. In FY2020, we saw the Administration and Congress really support a strong budget for the Coast Guard. They are doing a number of things to address the Commandant's number one issue of "readiness." We talk about our readiness from three platforms, which are 1) technology, 2) people, and 3) assets and infrastructure. We have backlogs in our assets and infrastructure of about $2.8 billion that we're trying to fill. We know we have to replace some assets, because maintaining 50 year-old ships is not the best way to operate a modernized sea Service. And we know that technology is becoming more and more important to operate any Service. So we are working on all those fronts and Congress gave us some help with increases over our budget request. These increases included $25 million to address depot maintenance backlogs faced by our cutter and aviation fleets, as well as $15 million for shore infrastructure maintenance. Congressional increases also built upon the budget request for workforce readiness, resulting in a total of over $23 million in workforce-related investments. For FY2021, we are seeing the Administration support those priorities going forward, so much so that they have fully funded a second Polar Security Cutter to provide greater presence in the Arctic, given competing interests of other nations. We continue to push that readiness scenario, because we know that the workforce has a lot of different options. With the blended retirement system, and a talented civilian workforce that can move as they will, we've got to be the organization where people want to work, and that involves everything from pay, to how we're training, to the technology provided for the workforce. So we've seen a lot of support from the Administration and we are in the midst of rolling that out on the Hill and we're seeing some support there. We still have additional readiness needs, since we haven't had the same bump-ups realized in the Department of Defense for the other Services, but we continue to express what our needs are and we're seeing those addressed in each of the last couple of fiscal years.
Mr. Runnels: As part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard has consistently been successful with its financial audit results over the past few years. How did the Coast Guard achieve its clean financial statement audit opinion, how have you sustained that success, and what audit...