The Coast Guard’s financial management and procurement system and processes lie at the core of all daily missions and operations. Without effective systems and processes the Coast Guard could not feed the people or fuel the assets needed to complete all of our assigned missions. The ability to effectively manage these, and all other, financial transactions is a crucial, but often overlooked, step in mission execution.
For several reasons, the Coast Guard has begun to transition from the outdated Core Accounting System, to a new, standardized integrated financial management, procurement, and asset management system and supporting process that will result in improved compliance with federal standards and effective operational support.
Financial Management and Procurement Services (FMPS) Modernization is comprised of three teams:
- The new system – Financial Management Service Improvement Initiative (FMSII) is not a new system, it is software as a service being provided from another federal agency. This off-the-shelf product will be compliant with federal rules and regulations. Another major change from past efforts is that since it is owned and operated by another agency the Coast Guard will not be able to be customize it to fit our ways of doing business.
- The information – Data Strategy Team is working to ensure the information from the old system will be able to communicate with FMSII and related systems and provide data management and governance into the future.
- The people – Business Process Re-engineering is reshaping how and where the Coast Guard will make financial transactions. A proof of concept test in District 5 and a pilot program in District 13 will eventually lead to a streamlined process to be utilized across the Coast Guard.
While FMSII will not be available to the Coast Guard until October 2017, the efforts in Districts 5 and 13 are moving the work out of the operators hands and into a regionalized support structure that has shifted the day-to-day financial and procurement responsibilities away from smaller field units, such as boat stations, and has given those responsibilities to the various bases or a regional support unit throughout the district. All District 5 sector and below units are now receiving financial, procurement and property support at a regional level. This effort has reduced the need for the operational workforce to perform financial management and procurement functions as a collateral duty, strengthened internal controls and created efficiencies. On October 1, 2015, District 13 adopted this same idea, and shifted all financial and procurement efforts from smaller units to Base Seattle.
So how is the new way of doing business different?
While many things will appear the same initially, the changes will happen behind the scenes. Because FMSII is not yet available, units are still making procurement requests within the Financial Procurement Desktop, or FPD. However, the actual purchase takes place at the regional, or base level. The unit then receives the items, and the regional unit keeps all required paperwork and handles audit requests.
“We are only a few weeks into the pilot program and already there has been a profound impact on Coast Guard Station Seattle”, said Lt. Mark Leahey, executive officer at Coast Guard Station Seattle. “Prior to this program, without a dedicated Storekeeper at our unit, our Boatswain Mates and Machinery Technicians spent countless hours making purchases, documenting their efforts, tracking credit card statements, and following their purchases to completion. They received no formal training on how to do this and often the purchasing process can be quite lengthy and confusing. These are the same BMs and MKs that are asked to be our coxswains, boarding officers, tactical crewmembers, engineers, and officers of the day, among a plethora of other collateral duties. By reducing their procurement workload, we are allowing them to concentrate on the jobs that they are rated for. Likewise, the complicated and ever-changing financial and procurement work can be done by Storekeeper field experts. It’s a win-win situation all around.”
The lessons learned from the testing through these two districts will shape how we will expand into other regions of the Coast Guard. These efforts will enable the Coast Guard-wide implementation of the regional support model to occur during fiscal year 2017, prior to the implementation of FMSII (the new system as a service) at the start of fiscal year 2018. In fiscal year 2019, the plan is for this effort to expand to provide regional support to all remaining units, including major cutters, training commands and headquarters units.
Change is never easy, and this monumental shift in how we support operations will certainly be no exception. This is much more than learning new technology and new processes. This is fundamentally about improving how we support our operations and people.
Do you have questions about the new system? Leave them in the comments below and Coast Guard All Hands will ensure they are answered!