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Looking for professional development opportunities in your own back yard. (Professional Development).

I was delighted recently when significant plus-ups were announced for the Department of Defense (DoD) budget over the next several years. I was somewhat less delighted at a recent budget briefing by one of the services when the general officer explaining the numbers and increased workloads made it clear that very little of the anticipated funding will reach people at the installation level in the operation and maintenance (O&M) account. It caused me to conjecture that funding for individual professional development would be held to present levels--or perhaps would decline.

Hence, the theme of this column: looking for professional development opportunities in your own back yard. While attending formal classes and going off to Professional Development Institutes are superb ways to increase your skills, knowledge, and abilities, such training doesn't always happen with the frequency you would like.

A mentor of mine once said that a professional should do three things each year: write a paper, rake a course, and be active in a professional association. I since have expanded his list to include getting a degree (or another degree if you have one already) and getting certified. The latter two, of course, are not accomplished each year but need to be ongoing. This article offers some good, solid thoughts on things to do in the interim on a local level to attain your personal professional development goals.

Form a Local "Paper Chase" Study Group. There used to be a great television show several years ago about a group of young law students at Harvard University engaged in the paper chase (that is, attaining their law degrees). They would break down assigned areas of study each week, and each student would prepare materials on the area to which he or she was assigned. They would come together before an exam, share their notes, and teach one another. Many of our ASMC chapters have emulated this model and are hosting weekly meetings of individuals who are working toward raking a certification examination in one or more areas.

Use the Web Site. Using this Web site (which was designed with all of you in mind), you can learn about auditing by downloading the General Accounting Office Yellow Book, or learn about applied fiscal law by going to the Red Book Principles of Federal Appropriation Law, or view the DoD budget, the United States budget, Office of Management and Budget circulars or directives, and the text of every single federal law in existence.

There is an excellent manual on the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System that you can reach through the Naval War College. The manual outlines the entire system, all the groups and staff levels involved, and the product produced at each level. You have a great learning resource at your fingertips!

Borrow the Text Used in the Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course. Certainly someone on your installation has taken this five-day course developed by the ASMC in cooperation with the DoD. The course's reference text is an excellent overview of all of the materials that a journeyman financial manager should know; it is given to each student who rakes the course. Borrow the book and review those areas in which you need to increase your proficiency. Better yet, use it as a reference work for your local study group.

Take the Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course. This course is funded centrally by DoD. To find our if the training is being made available to your installation (and, hence, would be free of cost to you), look up the course schedule on the Web sire. If it is, then look up the point of contact (on the same Web Site) for your Component and get instructions on how to enroll. If the course is full, make sure you are added to a waiting list because there often are some no-shows. (By the way, the American Council on Education recommends 3 semester hours of college credit for this course.)

Apply for an ASMC Education Grant. Need money for professional development? Every year, the ASMC gives its members approximately 15 no-strings-attached $1,000 cash grants to apply toward individual professional development. The applications are due each year to the ASMC Headquarters not later than February 28. The only requirement is that you have been a member of ASMC for at least 2 years. Don't pass this up!

Attend Local Mini-PDIs. While not everyone can attend the National PDI each year, many ASMC chapters conduct excellent local training opportunities. I recently attended a training day hosted by one Midwest chapter during which the two-star director of financial operations briefed the service budget outlook, a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) gave the rationale and plans for major installation reorganizations servicewide, and another SES member told of the DFAS mission and strategies for improvement. Anyone could have learned a lot from such a day. In fact, it would have been worth a day of leave, if necessary, to hear those presentations. So don't miss your chance for local training, even if it is just for a day of networking with your colleagues.

Invest in Yourself. Many times, the reason for lack of professional development opportunities is explained by the fact that the supervisor won't fund the activity--be it a meeting, a PDI, or a college course. Sometimes you just have to reach into your own wallet and invest in yourself.

My favorite example of this is the story of a friend who was told that the five remaining courses she needed for a master's degree would not be funded by the civilian personnel office. She made the personal investment. She then was selected for the Defense Leadership and Management Program (DLAMP) and was sent to the Naval War College for a year of advanced study and a second master's degree. They liked her so much that she was asked to stay for an additional year to teach and, as a result, landed a high-graded job on the staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

A little personal investment can have big payoffs in the long run. Professional development is--and always has been--a two-way street. And you can't expect the organization to fund everything.

Cross Train. There is nothing that breaks up the monotony or makes a service member or employee more valuable than to know the jobs of many people in an organization. I once knew a very effective boss who had a regular schedule of staff rotation to make this happen. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule, but a good sales pitch may help a beleaguered supervisor see the light. It won't happen if you don't ask!

Join Toastmasters. Need to build your skills in public speaking, briefing, or persuasive discourse? They are out there waiting to help!

Volunteer for Community Service. This is one area wherein all professionals can benefit. Indeed, the giver is most often the beneficiary of these activities, since community service renews the soul, builds ties across the generations, and generally makes us all better human beings. All ASMC chapters do community service, and you can participate!

Get Involved! As if you didn't already have enough to do!

Well, I hope you find the preceding suggestions helpful. One last thought: The more of these self-developmental activities you get involved in, the more you will enjoy the involvement. And you will find that you are learning something new and useful every day. The business of professional development can be enjoyable as well as rewarding!

New Reference Work Available

A newly released book on federal budgeting and financial management should be of interest to financial managers, budget analysts, and other members of the DoD financial management community. It is ideal for use in training and as a reference in preparing for certification exams. The authors are Jerry L. McCaffery and L. R. Jones, both professors and members of the financial management faculty at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. The title of the book is Public Budgeting and Financial Management in the Federal Government (Research in Public Management, V. 1) (472 pages). It may be ordered from Information Age Press by e-mail at or through any bookstore. The book is available in paperback for $39.95 (ISBN 1-931576-12-2) and in hardback for $69.95 (ISBN 1-931576-13-0).

Professors McCaffery and Jones have been conducting research on federal government budgeting and financial management for more than 30 years. This book is unique in that it contains material not published elsewhere. The table of contents follows:

Ch. 1 Introduction to Federal Budgeting and Financial Management

Ch. 2 The History of Budgetary Power in the U.S.

Ch. 3 The Structure and Process of Budgeting

Ch. 4 Budget Execution

Ch. 5 Entitlements and Direct Spending Control

Ch. 6 Budget Analysis and Analysts

Ch. 7 Budget Strategy

Ch. 8 Budgeting and Restructuring Under Fiscal Stress

Ch. 9 Budget and Financial Management Reform

Ch. 10 Budgeting for Results

Ch. 11 Budgeting for Performance

Ch. 12 Budgeting, Contracting and Management Control

Ch. 13 A Review of Recent Financial Management Initiatives

Ch. 14 Contemporary Financial Management Challenges

Appendix A: Budget and Financial Management Curriculum Reform

Appendix B: A Case Study of Federal Government Cash Management

Appendix C: A Case Study of CFO Act Implementation

We're Here for you

As always, send information on certification, training, and education opportunities that you would like to appear in the Armed Forces Comptroller to the ASMC National Headquarter, Attn: Certification and Training Corner, 2034 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite 145, Alexandra, VA 22314. Points of contact are John Raines ( and Frank Arcari ( ASMC's toll-free number is (800) 462-5637.
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Publication:Armed Forces Comptroller
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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