Boy, my mother was right when she said time went by faster when you got older. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since my first article in The Air Force Comptroller magazine. It has been a busy year, with a lot of very important events that will change the way we do business in the future. Mr. Montelongo’s transformation vision counts new technologies as one of the three key enablers that will enable FMers to become strategic partners in the future. Let me start out my second year by updating you on the top four IT strategic objectives.
1. New Accounting System: The Program Management Office at Scott AFB is doing great work on the requirements. They have documented the business rules for all of TRANSCOM to use and coordinated these with the Business Management Modernization Program (BMMP) to ensure they are consistent with standard DoD business processes.
They have also created a range of testing scenarios to evaluate software packages as well as allow us to measure the configured capability when we begin to install it in the field. Software evaluations should begin this summer with a selection in early fall. Representatives from each MAJCOM will participate in the selection process.
That’s the good news!! Our acquisition timelines were very aggressive for a program of this magnitude and we are finding actual execution to be behind timelines as we clear the numerous hurdles required to gain approval to proceed. Our acquisition support guys are working this hard and we have super support within the Air Force and DoD, so hopefully next quarter I will have better news on the acquisition front.
Now I need some help. As I travel and speak to Air Force financial managers, I often hear that my audiences don’t know anything about a new accounting system or something called DEAMS (Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System). Simply, this is our new accounting system that will utilize Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software, combined with DoD business rules.
The package procured will have General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Financial Reporting, Funds Distribution, and other functions integrated into one single package. I don’t have the space to cover everything but I can tell you that Mr Short devoted an entire column to it in the January 2004 issue of this magazine. If you get a chance, take a look at this informative article and make sure those around you know about it too!!! (Want to read the article and can’t find the magazine…Log into the Portal and go to the SAF/FM page of the MyOrg Tab. In the Essentials block, there is a list of current and back issues of The Air Force Comptroller magazine. Click the link that says “The Air Force Comptroller Magazine, Vol 38.”
On the resulting page, click “Vol 38, Issue 1” in the Related Links box (next to the page title). A dialog box will appear giving you the option to open the Zip file on the Portal or download/save it to your computer. The Zip file contains the PDF version of the January 2004 issue).
2. Modern Budget Formulation: Exciting news on Budget Formulation this week as I was briefed on Phase 1, Budget Analysis. We are on schedule for December to deploy COTS capability to the SAF/FMB staff. The COTS tool selected is Oracle’s analytical tools Discoverer and Oracle Financial Analyzer. Later phases include: Phase 2 (Cost Model and Force Structure Interfaces), Phase 3 (Budget Development), Phase 4 (Budget Justification), and Phase 5 (Budget Electronic Exhibit Generation).
These phases will use other capabilities of the COTS and extend to the MAJCOMs and installations. Our spiral approach plans releases in six-month increments and we will be soliciting field level support to help create the requirements and perform the testing.
3. Single Data Warehouse (Used to be known as Single Source of Authorative Data): I’ll refresh your memory…this effort is to eliminate the redundant data warehouses and eliminate the many interfaces we have with the same source systems. Right now I count at least five different places an FMer can go to get pretty similar information, GAFS-R, EDV, CRIS, AFTOC, and Keystone. All great acronyms and all created for good purpose.
Even with the extraordinary efforts of the folks involved with these systems we still don’t have accurate, reliable, and timely financial management information. So it is time for a different approach…hopefully one that will result in lower costs of operations and allow the system owners to concentrate on the business rules of their system rather than how to get and store the data.
For that, we need a strategy that allows “applications” to go to one place for a piece of data. A study by a world class data warehouse firm reviewed each of our systems to see if we could use one of them as a stepping off point and the answer was no. The same study outlined a recommendation to migrate our FM data needs to the Air Force Knowledge Service (AFKS) that will be the Air Force’s enterprise wide data warehouse. Our next step is to work with the AFKS program and see how fast they can accommodate our requirements and what our risk mitigation needs are.
4. Enterprise Architecture: I’ll make this short…it really doesn’t directly affect most of you. We have completed our “As-Is” efforts and documented the current systems and interface environment. We are now working on our “To-Be” state. As soon as that is done we will work with a group of functional experts to ensure that each FM function is addressed either via automated systems or manual processes so there are no gaps in our coverage. The last and most important step is to create the Transition Plan on how to get from “As-Is” to the “To-Be” and frankly, I sure hope items 1-3 above cover a lot of that Transition Plan.
While these are the highest priorities we are working we will also be focusing on a couple of other changes that we hope will improve the technologies we have to work with. First, FMPT is taking a hard look at how we are organized. While we do not want to reorganize just to do it…the management team is pretty convinced that our current structure puts too much emphasis on functional roles of Budget, Accounting and Finance with minimal regard to the key disciplines that are important to most technical providers such as Requirements Management, Design, Integration, Testing, Training, etc. It is too early to tell where exactly we will end up, but we will keep you updated.
I mentioned Testing as a key discipline and it is an area we want to improve on during the coming year. I know you are aware of the many cases of solutions being deployed and “bugs” being resolved after you get the software. Some of this is a fact of life when you are dealing with software, but we believe we can improve the quality of software coming from our service providers by forming a testing cell that will concentrate on testing new releases in an integrated USAF environment.
This testing will simulate transactions processing end-to-end rather than just the acceptance testing of the specific system. For example, an ABSS functionality may work fine when tested by itself but “bug” out when interfacing with GAFS-R. Another real example was a new release of WAWF that worked well in testing, but did not work with USAF Common Access Cards. Our test cell will begin with some baby steps by using a couple of systems and then as our testing environment grows and our testing processes become mature we will add additional systems.
I would be remiss if I did not extend a big thanks to Colonel Dave Price and the folks at AMC for this great idea. (If they would only have given me the money, too!).
Let me end by saying I will personally continue to try to find a way to harness the great ideas that exist in the field. I have seen so much great work as folks take the initiative to solve weaknesses in our systems capabilities but I also know that our enterprise cannot afford (either in costs or in standards) unique solutions that apply only to one installation or command.
However, if we can consolidate the needs…apply some of your creative ideas…use some standard technologies…maybe we can leverage a solution across the entire Air Force. The Automated Tools Forum is one way to do this. I am looking for others to include more aggressive use of the IDEAS program. If you have any thoughts on this please let me know.
Well, time to end. Thanks for all you do to keep our warfighters paid and getting resources to the highest priority needs. Without your efforts we would not be the finest Air Force in the world!