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The Certified Defence Financial Manager program--an unqualified success! ASMC's CDFM certification program is a stellar performer. Here's how it happened.

When I sat for the Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM) examinations in 2000, the program was new and many of us in the Defense financial management career field were looking for great things. Today, as chair of the ASMC Certification Commission, I can report that the program truly has exceeded our expectations. With over 3,000 active CDFM holders in the Defense workforce and over 10,000 employees having completed the Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course, we have reached a significant segment of the Department of Defense's financial management personnel. Tomorrow's financial management leaders are getting certified today! As a result, they are better prepared for the challenges they will face, and the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Coast Guard are better off because of the investments they have made.

Will you be a player, or will you be left behind?

Recently, Lisa Rue, an employee of Paradigm Technologies, Inc., became the three thousandth person to successfully complete the series of three CDFM examinations. It is gratifying that younger professionals now recognize the value of this certification and are incorporating it into their career development. It also is gratifying to realize that the private sector has recognized the credibility and utility of CDFM certification. Furthermore, the number 3,000 is significant because this is the level at which the Department of Defense workforce became certified in the same proportion as its private sector counterparts. But we won't stop here; we'll continue to build the program, which has reached 3,100 CDFMs as of this writing.

Steps to Success

A Well-crafted Program Created and Maintained Internally

Now the professional certification of choice for DoD financial management personnel, the CDFM program has been successful for a variety of reasons. First, it is test-based No one was handed a CDFM designation; no one was grandfathered into the program. Everyone had to earn the designation by passing the examinations. Second, both the examinations and the associated Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course have been revised and updated at least annually (sometimes more often as the rules, systems, and processes of financial management changed over time). Defense financial management is not a static field, and those who teach it must continually update their knowledge and materials.

Third, the CDFM program managers have a consuming passion for quality, which stemmed particularly from Lieutenant General (Ret.) James F. McCall, former executive director of ASMC, whose experiences in the Army's Infantry School internalized in him the need for superb instruction. ASMC staffers were constantly in the classrooms, making sure that the right material was taught in the right way to all who attended. Fourth, a superb faculty was fielded by the contractors who conducted the instruction (such as the Graduate School, USDA; MCI; and SAIC). All instructors had broad backgrounds in Defense financial management and taught in teams of two, each reinforcing the teaching points being made. For its part, the ASMC hosted annual faculty development seminars in which the latest changes in DoD financial management were presented.

DoD Support

The program has had excellent support from the DoD leadership from the top down, starting in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and from key leaders in the military services and Defense agencies. The Department has invested in training and upgrading its personnel and has followed up by funding the examinations through reimbursements to individuals who successfully complete the examinations.

External Guidance and Support

Other sources of support for the program deserve credit during the beginning stages when we were all feeling our way into the new territory of certification. Mr. Jeffrey Steinhoff, then National President of the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), had just successfully developed the Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) Program after several years of hard work. Both Mr. Steinhoff and Mr. Charlie Culkin, then-executive director of AGA, gave generously of their time and saved us years of development time by sharing lessons they had learned the hard way. In addition, Mr. Frank Arcari, while serving at ASMC on an Intergovernmental Personnel Act fellowship assignment from OSD, worked tirelessly to implement the program.

On-going Learning Process and Relevance

One of the major positive attributes of both the Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course and the CDFM examinations is the breadth of material they cover. Most of us in Defense financial management became very expert at one discipline, such as budgeting or accounting, that we perform daily. The course and CDFM exam have gone far beyond that. Anyone who carries the CDFM designation has shown familiarity with 12 competency areas ranging from cost estimation to auditing to fiscal law--with material as current as it can be.

But the learning doesn't stop when the examinations are passed. Like other professional certifications, the CDFM carries a requirement that holders must obtain at least 80 continuing professional education units every 24 months. In accordance with the ASMC Pledge of Professionalism, CDFM holders are asked to self-certify that they have completed the 80 hours when they renew their certifications every two years. The ASMC Associate Director for Professional Development conducts a random audit of those who renew each cycle. He stated, "By and large, almost all of the CDFMs audited present well over the 80 hours. Occasionally there is a single individual who has not finished the 80 hours on time, and I work with that individual to come up with a plan to meet the requirement. We are in the professional development business and we try to take good care of our members, especially those who have been or are being deployed. I view the ASMC members as colleagues and try to treat each with respect."

The Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course also has had an excellent track record. Developed by a professional course writer with the dedicated input of many DoD subject matter experts, the course was evaluated early on by members of the American Council on Education. They determined the course to be excellent and recommended that all students who successfully complete it be awarded three semester hours of upper-division, baccalaureate-level college credit or that they be awarded graduate credit if their course completion required a graduate-level research paper. Many individuals have used this credit in completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The CDFM Certification Commission is concerned not only with how the program operates today but also with its continuing to be a dynamic, relevant program, maintaining its reputation for rigor and quality while it continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing world of Defense financial managers. It is the commission's job to advise the ASMC program managers on meeting this objective. While we meet formally at least twice a year, most of the commissioners are active practitioners and frequently stay connected with changes in the DoD and ASMC.

The development of the new CDFM examination, Module Four, Acquisition, is being fielded; the choice to take the examination is optional. This will provide an even broader array of skills and knowledge that a CDFM can demonstrate. The new materials on acquisition will be in every Enhanced Defense Financial Mangement Training Course text.


Professional certification is a necessary and an integral part of every professional person's career development pattern. I maintain a variety of professional certifications in addition to the CDFM, including Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and Certified Government Financial Manager. I can assure you that the CDFM program is indeed the premier certification program for anyone working in or considering working in the area of Defense financial management. Headed by ASMC Executive Director Robert Hale and by John Bunnell, the ASMC Director for Certification, a great team is in place that will ensure that the program continues its premier status.

Alvin Tucker, CDFM, is a senior manager in Grant Thornton Global Public Sector with over 30 years of financial management and Department of Defense experience. He is a member of the Washington Chapter and chairman of the Certification Commission.
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Title Annotation:American Society of Military Comptrollers
Author:Tucker, Alvin
Publication:Armed Forces Comptroller
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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