Financial management takes center stage as agencies root out wasted billions

Monday - 4/8/2013, 2:37am EDT

By Lisa Wolfe
Program Director
Federal News Radio

Government spending is changing — drastically. You know. You are experiencing sequestration, having to figure out how the $1.2 trillion in cuts under the Budget Control Act will affect your agency. And now, with the recently-passed fiscal 2013 funding bill, there's more data on where your budgets drop next. All of these, really, are just taking bites around the edges of the nation's $16 trillion deficit.

But there's a shimmering light at the end of the tunnel held by someone with the tools, the understanding and the prominence to restore the government's financial environment. That's right, I'm talking about your agency's chief financial officer.

No, not the stereotype you're thinking; green eye shade, hiding behind his or her calculator and counting every dollar through some unknown formula on an Excel spreadsheet. Don't get me wrong, those people still exist in every organization — and are needed. But, I'm talking about a new breed of CFO in whom are combined the mad science of Victor Frankenstein, the prescience of Gordon Moore (hint: Moore's law), and the efficaciousness of Robert Livingston (think: Louisiana Purchase).

Federal News Radio's week-long, on-air and online series, "Rise of the Money People: Financial management moves front and center as agencies make the final assault on wasted billions," zeros in on CFOS and their soldiers who are in the financial wars, their strategies and tactics for waging the fight, the current and emerging weapons in their arsenal and how their future battles will unfold.

Saving the wasted billions can't come soon enough as federal employees are furloughed, programs and contractors are cut and agreement on future federal budgets appears remote. A House bill to balance the budget in 10 years is at odds with a version in the Senate to change the spending trajectory. Reconciliation is pursued but unlikely. So, as debate continues over how to reach a final destination, agencies have no choice but to forge ahead in the direction of financial accountability, responsibility and efficiency.

The goal of Federal News Radio's special report is to shine a brighter light on the people and their strategies and weapons today and in the future that will help address the government's wide-ranging financial challenges. CFOs and their staffs have spent decades working behind the scenes to administer financial management, but the time has come for them to step out and lead these efforts.

Below, is a synopsis of what you can expect from Federal News Radio's special report this week. We hope you'll check back each day for new articles, interviews and multimedia elements that, we believe, give a detailed look at the importance of effective financial management in the federal government.

Chief financial officers report for duty

Congress institutionalized a tighter grip on federal spending in 1990 with the CFO Act. Twenty-three years ago, the CFO Act created the internal controls and oversight and accountability systems to make better use of financial data.

Monday, Federal News Radio's Jason Miller explores whether the CFO Act has lived up to Congress's high expectations and whether lawmakers need to update it. He asks OMB's first comptroller Ed Mazur, the author of the original version of the CFO Act, and former Congressman Joe DioGuardi about its implementation. He also gets the lowdown from current OMB Controller Danny Werfel about the CFO Act's future evolution.

Check out our interactive timeline on the important moments in CFO history.

For a look at how federal financial management skills and expectations are evolving, we turn to former Housing and Urban Development CFO Doug Criscitello and Jeff Steinhoff, executive director at KPMG Government Institute. They explain how why current budget pressures have led to a Golden Age for agency CFOs. At the same time, Graduate School USA's Steve Potts tells us why agencies need to be examining succession planning within the financial management ranks.

Gone are the days when agency CFOs stayed cloistered in their offices with the financial books. Now, more than ever, CFOs are collaborating with their counterparts across the C suite — chief information officers, chief acquisition officers and others. Linda Springer, the executive director of the government and public sector for Ernst and Young and former controller at the Office of Management and Budget, explains why agency execs are increasingly relying on agencies' financial-management shops for data and answers.