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Military Financial Management Challenges of the Future--Where Have Our Senior Financial Managers and Computers Gone?

As a budget analyst I see three significant challenges to military financial management in the near future:

* A dwindling core of experienced financial managers

* An ongoing need for high-quality training

* Affordability of information technology under the new Navy/Marine Corps Intranet

Significant Personnel Losses

Although there is always the challenge of obtaining sufficient operating budget dollars, I contend that there will also be a significant challenge in retaining or rebuilding an experienced core of military and civilian financial managers to budget for and manage the dollars.

Civilian employees under the old Civil Service Retirement System are an aging workforce, many of whom are within a few years of retirement. In addition, in fiscal year (FY) 2000, 44 civil service employees at our military base accepted $25,000 buyouts to leave the workforce. As more A-76 studies are conducted and as the possibility increases for more base functions to be outsourced, the offer of a buyout will become ever more tempting to many of those who have the corporate knowledge in an organization.

With regard to Marine Corps military personnel, there are currently 215 Marine Corps officers serving in Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 3404, Financial Management Officer, billets and 75 serving out of the MOS. The 3404s are Marine officers who could become comptrollers, finance officers, and budget officers. Of those serving in the 3404 MOS, 12 percent are at Headquarters, Marine Corps; 9 percent are at Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS); 50 percent are with the Operating Forces; and 29 percent are at bases or stations.

The problems facing the Marine Corps financial community can be illustrated by the planned retirement of senior civilians within the next 5 years and the decline of senior military on active duty. At the end of FY1999 there were 36 lieutenant colonels/colonels in MOS 3404, 28 at the end of FY2000, and only 22 in FY2001.

To keep rebuilding the strength of the core of our financial managers, we need to find incentives for people going into financial management and dedicating themselves to a career in that field. For Marine financial management officers, it takes years of experience to attain MOS credibility; and, for promotions, they must compete against Combat Arms MOSs. Likewise, it takes civilian managers years of experience to earn credibility. The knowledge required for financial management positions includes an academic and a managed on-the-job training blend of budgeting, accounting, finance, review, and managerial skills.

For example, our base Deputy Comptroller has a B.B.A. from Loyola University, Los Angeles, and an M.S. in Personnel Administration from George Washington University; and he holds certification in financial planning. He also served 21 years in the Navy Supply Corps and has been a facilities management officer and has supervised contract specialists. Personnel of this caliber and background will be difficult to replace.

In November 2000, the Office of Personnel Management announced the establishment of higher rates of basic pay for entry- and departmental-level computer specialists, computer engineers, and computer scientists covered by the General Schedule (GS) pay system. The overall net pay increases range from 7 to 33 percent, and the purpose of these higher pay rates was to help agencies address recruitment and retention problems affecting the government's information technology workforce. Considering the knowledge and experience required for financial managers, perhaps additional compensation should be considered for them as well, based on such criteria as having an accounting, business, or finance degree and/or becoming a Certified Defense Financial Manager.

Additional, Continuing Training

There must be work-related training opportunities afforded to all financial management personnel. After attending The Basic School (TBS), 3404 Marines attend the 6- to 7-week Financial Management Officers Course at MCSSS, Camp Johnson, North Carolina, followed by on-the-job experience.

Later, for officer professional education, they might attend the Marine Corps Practical Comptroller Course for 1 week at Monterey, California; the Navy Practical Comptroller Course for 2 weeks at Pensacola, Florida, or Monterey; the Professional Military Comptroller School for 6 weeks at Montgomery; Alabama; or the Naval Postgraduate School for up to 18 months at Monterey.

Most of our comptroller office personnel enhance their skills with work-related courses offered by such training institutions as the Graduate School, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); private training organizations; and local colleges. In addition, most of our budget analysts and senior accounting personnel have had the opportunity to attend the Marine Corps Practical Comptroller Course at Monterey.

This year we also had an excellent training opportunity, the Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course, which our comptroller had the initiative to bring on-site. This course was offered by the American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) in partnership with the Graduate School, USDA, and provides broad-based knowledge of Defense financial management.

Other training opportunities include the Civilian Leadership Development Program, and, of course, membership in an ASMC chapter and attendance at the annual ASMC Professional Development Institute. These types of programs offer opportunities for self-improvement, broadened expertise, and networking with other financial managers.

Affordable Information Technology

The third challenge descending upon the Marine Corps in the very near future will be in the affordability of information technology as we transition to the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (N/MCI). We cannot deny that we are in an information revolution. Warfighters as well as financial managers must be able to collect, process, analyze, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information.

One of the goals of the N/MCI is to reduce cost of voice, data, and video services. Current funding will support only 68,000 "seats" throughout the Marine Corps. There are presently between 85,000 and 100,000 computers throughout the Marine Corps. As such, there will be a significant cut in computer resources. The current annual Marine Corps budget of $154 million will have to be increased to over $310 million just to provide the reduced support for the 68,000 seats. The bottom line on these figures is that the N/MCI will cost the Marine Corps twice as much to have half of its computer assets, with a corresponding reduction in work output.

Each office at our base is completing surveys to identify, by billet and priority, those who need computers. Computers have become our essential tools. To remove any of them, due to externally imposed equipment and financial constraints, would be more than a step backwards. Each and every person in our comptroller's office uses his computer constantly throughout the day for tasks such as developing spreadsheets, accessing and querying our accounting system, writing work-related letters and memos, preparing forms, sending and answering e-mail nationwide and sometimes worldwide, preparing charts and graphic presentations, manipulating databases, and doing Web research.

Nearly every government office has a Web site, and pertinent information such as pay schedules, Information Business Model, or financial regulations is just a click away. We have entered the era of data mining, and for us to reduce our mining capabilities because of insufficient seat assignments or being strapped with unaffordable costs is going to curtail effective resource management. If N/MCI proceeds as currently planned, many of us will be driving our "Model-T" typewriters, dusting off our 24-column ledger sheets, and warming up the old overhead projectors for briefings to try to collect, process, analyze, and disseminate all the data we must manage.

Conclusion

As we look to the future, a core of knowledgeable financial managers coupled with affordable information technology will not only be our challenges, but also the keys to continuing financial management success.

Tommy Lou Tee is a budget analyst for the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. She began her civil service career in 1979 and has worked in the Comptroller's Budget Office for the past 12 years. She holds a B.A. degree from Colorado State University and an M.A.degree from the University of Texas at El Paso
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Article Details
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Author:Teel, Tommy Lou
Publication:Armed Forces Comptroller
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Words:1316
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