Q&A: Administration for Children and Families ready to serve

Michael Curtis, program manager for the Administration for Children and Families Grant's consortium

Michael Curtis

When the Office of Management and Budget, in the fiscal 2007 budget request last February, named three consortia to lead the Grants Line of Business initiative, it marked a clear direction for the program. Agencies will have to use one of three shared-services providers for grants management systems or justify to OMB their rationale for building their own systems.

OMB estimates agencies spent about $144 million in 2005 on development, modernization and enhancement of grant management systems. OMB expects agencies to begin choosing their grant providers by late 2006 or early 2007.

With the three consortia just getting off the ground this year, GCN asked program managers from the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to describe their focus and how they are different from each other.

GCN: What type of grants is ACF focusing on?

CURTIS: HHS is particularly strong in formula, entitlement, block and competitive grant types. ACF and our business partners have research offices, and we effectively process their research grants to provide a full service suite.

GCN: How are you differentiating yourself from the other consortia?

CURTIS: We build partnerships because we believe that people matter most and serve as the foundation for all success. We provide our business partners effective service for all grant types with extensive operational capability in all 14 OMB grant award process areas. The total system cost of $6 million is shared [among] all partners, providing all a very low operational cost. Because HHS/ACF already paid the development costs for a full suite of business services, agencies often find the system provides all required services with no development costs. Business partners can invest their scarce development funding on their program-specific priorities.

The HHS/ACF system is mature, leading to green in financial management [under the President's Management Agenda] every year. HHS/ACF provides integrated funds control with the Financial Management Line of Business systems in the areas of commitment accounting, execution and auditing.

HHS processes more than 100,000 grant award actions that distribute over [$250 billion] dollars in grants. This volume and size ensures grants are one of the top three management priorities in HHS.

GCN: How are you ensuring your technology can support your customers? Please describe any new upgrades or new system plans.

CURTIS: All grantees communicate with the center of excellence using Web pages based on Java2 Enterprise Edition applications and Oracle databases. New business partners that become operational in the coming year will use these same Internet technologies for internal operations. These technologies provide stability and the scalability necessary to service all government grants. Disaster recovery and continuity of operations are provided at secondary sites. We have selected a service-oriented architecture that allows us to plug in unique business services requested by our business partners. Enhancements come in two forms: continuous process improvement and specialized requests from our business partners.

GCN: When do you hope to start providing grants management services? What still needs to be done between now and then?

CURTIS: The HHS/ACF center of excellence started providing grant processing services to agencies in 2004. We currently provide a full range of grant processing services to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Indian Health Service, the Administration on Aging, the Office of Public Health and Science, the Administration on Native Americans, the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, and others.

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