Federal financial managers are coming to terms with financial compliance; limited money for new systems or upgrades; and the continuing need for achieving clean audits, financial transparency, and compliance. How are those financial managers facing these challenges is the subject of the Federal News Radio Discussion: Accounting in Austerity.
Joining us for the discussion are:
Mark Easton, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Defense.
Tony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Here are some of the topics, questions and excerpts from the responses of the panel:
Scardino: The President has submitted a $3.7 trillion budget, “but revenues are $2.6 trillion dollars. That’s a $1.1 trillion dollar deficit. So if you shut down every government program, you still wouldn’t be able to make up that difference.”
Scardino: “Nobody knows what’s going to happen, no one has a crystal ball, but we’re preparing from an agency perspective. What would happen if we shut down? Midnight of next Friday, what would we do?”
Easton: “The Department of Defense plans about a lot of things and so we’re currently taking a close look at those plans. If you recall, back in 1995, we had a similar government shutdown for a period of time. So that experience is very, very relevant. It boils down to a fiscal law issue. We’re in the midst of supporting two wars and so I think that we will find that those plans will allow us, to some extent, to continue that support.”
Easton: “I would have to say, first and foremost, that we’re hopeful that this won’t happen.”
Scardino: “I can’t tell you how many questions I get each day about the possible shutdown.”
Scardino: “Everyone wants to know who’s essential, who’s non-essential. Having lived through this in 1995, I’ll tell you right now as an employee who was deemed non-essential, it’s not great for morale.”
Easton: “This is not a crisis. We have plans in place. Given the fact that we have a period of time and we have a bill at least that’s been passed in the House that’s moving through, from a Department of Defense perspective that we’re hopeful will be acted upon.”
Scardino: “I’d look at it a little differently. I mean, with all due respect, I got called into the director’s office yesterday to talk about a possible shutdown, not talk about federal accounting. I mean that’s never going to be something that, you know, is going to raise to the attention of policymakers. A possible shutdown? Absolutely. That’s something that’s on everybody’s mind right now. We’re having tons and tons of meetings at the Department of Commerce on what does this mean from a systems perspective, from a customer service perspective, what does it mean from a morale perspective. Everybody’s worried.”
Scardino and Easton covered many different issues during our Federal News Radio Discussion. Listen to the audio links above to hear Scardino and Easton discuss the following topics.
Part 2: How CRs Impede Meeting the Mission
Topics: Even if the shutdown does not occur, passing a budget this late in the year adds “another layer of complexity” to financial planning for the fiscal year, said Scardino. Easton agreed, saying the current funding situation is one of “the worst possible kinds of reduction” because it reduces flexibility which, in turn, hampers the ability to fulfill agency and department missions.
Part 3: People Remember When Uncle’s Mean
Topics: Hiring and training the best and brightest while under budget constraints and Scardino explains how the yo-yo of budget freezes and thaws makes retention a challenge. “People are not going to forget, ‘you know what? Uncle Sam didn’t treat me so well when things weren’t good. Now things are better, why should I treat Uncle Sam well?'”
Easton addresses the issue of how freezing federal pay doesn’t save the government as much as it might seem.
Topics: Clean audits from the GAO, recovery audits and data analysis. New skill sets are needed across government with the changes in the ways data are collected and used. The role of the CFO in performance management and efficiency.
Part 5: Recovery Act Changes the Future
Topics: Continuing with how the Recovery Act has changed the role and expectations of CFOs. Easton said it “opened a window” and provided insight into “integration of financial information with other things.”