DHS CFO nominee ‘laser focused’ on financial systems modernization

The Department of Homeland Security’s financial management has been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List, in some form or fashion, since DHS was created in 2003.

That’s something Jeff Rezmovic, the nominee to serve as DHS’ chief financial officer, wants to change if he’s confirmed to oversee the finances of the sprawling department with an annual budget of more than $100 billion, including $60 billion in discretionary funding.

“We’ve got to get off the GAO High Risk List,” Rezmovic said during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing held today for several high-ranking nominations.

Rezmovic is well-acquainted with the inner works of DHS, having spent the last 13 years at the department. He currently serves as associate deputy under secretary for management and previously was DHS’ deputy chief of staff.

He said modernizing the technology DHS uses to manage its finances would be among his “greatest priorities” as CFO. He said only 40% of the department’s spending occurs on modern, integrated financial systems. “We have to get to 100%,” he said.

“I would be laser focused on financial systems modernization, making sure that it stays on time, on budget,” Rezmovic said.

In the latest version of its High Risk List, GAO found DHS has made some progress in its financial management efforts, but challenges remain.

While DHS has the “leadership commitment” to address financial systems modernization, GAO found the department will need more “capacity,” in the form of additional resources needed to see through financial systems modernization efforts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), respectively.

Furthermore, a fiscal 2022 audit found a “material weakness” in the Coast Guard’s troubled rollout of its new financial system. The weakness was to the system’s “ineffective design of controls over review of obligations incurred and the accuracy of expenditure records,” GAO reports.

“Without implementing modernized systems with fully effective controls, DHS is at an increased risk of errors and inconsistent or incomplete financial information from the use of manual and other control solutions,” GAO’s report concludes.

Rezmovic said he would work closely with DHS Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen on the financial systems modernization effort. He said DHS’ recently issued “IT Strategic Plan” would be helpful in prioritizing those projects. Earlier this year, Hysen said DHS was shifting many IT programs away from “big bang” approaches to more iterative development strategies, including the financial systems modernization effort.

“I would want to make sure that we are incorporating the right modernization projects through our regular budget cycles,” Rezmovic said. “We work closely with the CIO on that.”

Meanwhile, he said in between budget cycles, he’d work with Congress to ensure proper funding is available through options like the Technology Modernization Fund and DHS’ new Non-Recurring Expenses Fund.

ONCD nominee wants to shift away from four-year degrees

Meanwhile, the Senate committee also heard from Harry Coker, the nominee to serve as the next National Cyber Director. Coker is a retired naval officer who also served in high-level positions as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, respectively.

Coker fielded multiple questions about efforts to bolster the cyber workforce under ONCD’s recently issued “cyber workforce and education strategy.” The national cyber workforce deficit is at least 500,000 vacant positions, and by some estimates, the global shortage is as many as 4 million people.

In addition to working with state and local schools, Coker suggested employers need to ditch degree requirements for at least some cybersecurity positions. That’s a major facet of the ONCD workforce strategy and its push for the federal government to become a leader in “skills-based” hiring.

“We need to change the way we look at vacancy notices, job questionnaires,” Coker said. “In cyber, it should not be a requirement for everyone to have a four-year degree. You can get that cyber education without going through a four year college. And so again, we need to deliver that message broadly and deeply.”

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