E-gov brings CFOs, CIOs together

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Age: 44

Family: Wife, Deborah; daughters, Deirdre, 18, and Caitlin, 15

Last book read: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Favorite Web site: Google.com

Leisure activity: Working out at the gym

Motto: 'The pessimist complains about the direction of the wind. The optimist expects the direction to change. The leader simply adjusts the sails.'

Best job ever: Director of financial operations for SBA

Mark Carney, Education's techie financial guy

Henrik G. de Gyor

Mark Carney would never be identified as a techie. But that doesn't mean the deputy chief financial officer at the Education Department and chairman of the E-Government and Systems Committee for the CFO Council isn't IT-savvy.

When Carney worked for the Small Business Administration in Fresno, Calif., he helped establish a LAN and WAN. And recently, he installed a WiFi system at his home.

Carney's understanding of technology and the benefits it brings is a major reason his committee is taking an active role in the government's e-government efforts.

Carney, who also heads the Erroneous Payments Committee for the council, has been with Education since 1999 and head of the E-Government and Systems Committee since April.

Before coming to Education, he was the director of SBA's Fresno Commercial Loan Servicing Center, where he managed a $16 billion portfolio. He also directed SBA's Denver Finance Center for seven years.

He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Ohio University and a master's in public administration from Ohio State University.

Staff writer Jason Miller interviewed Carney at his office in Washington.

GCN: What is the focus of the Chief Financial Officers Council's E-Government and Systems Committee?

CARNEY: The CFO Council always had a systems committee of some sort. In the past, it was narrowly focused, pretty much dealing with incremental things. The introduction of the President's Management Agenda and the notion that we can actually do things across the government was the driver in trying to reconstitute what we looked at, what we focused on and who we were dealing with.

The CFO community has been engaged, but it hasn't been as focused as Office of Management and Budget comptroller Linda Springer would like it to be. Her notion is we will try to bring the broadest base of folks together. She wanted to have higher-level people in the CFO community participating on the committee, and we have done a pretty good job of attracting those people.

GCN: Who makes up the committee?

CARNEY: Dick Gregg, the commissioner of the Financial Management Service, is participating in the committee. Linda Springer is participating. The rest are career deputy CFO types. We have a lot of really strong managers with a lot of experience in this process. I'm honored that I was drafted to be their leader.

GCN: What is the committee's mission?

CARNEY: We have three big things. We want to make sure the CFO Council is relevant and that our council's and our chairman's voices are heard in all of the activity going on with systems across the federal government.

Second, we are working closely with the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program to develop the framework for federal financial management. We are heavily involved to make sure they are on the right track in testing commercial software packages.

The third thing is the coordination, communication and dissemination of data standards. This takes so much effort that you always are trying to push information from one place to the next instead of trying to figure out what the information is telling you.

GCN: How has the relationship between CFOs and CIOs changed over the past few years?

CARNEY: It is more balanced and more collaborative now. We spend a lot of time with CIOs. We are focused on continuity of operations, security and, of course, doing all the paperwork for the 300B business case exhibits. Now, we have a lot of tools to figure out the health of a project.

GCN: How has e-government changed the way agencies pay for IT projects?

CARNEY: E-government is different than the investment review process. Since Congress is reluctant to create this appropriations sweet spot where all of these things are selectively funded, we have been getting around it by passing the hat. I have never seen the level of pass-the-hat so high.

GCN: From a CIO point of view, no one likes pass-the-hat. What is the CFO view?

CARNEY: It is hard because of the way budget cycles evolve. You have to plan to have funds to put into that hat.

I know that my department has had trouble in the past. We had to work things out to come up with the money to support projects like E-Grants. It is harder to plan for pass-the-hat. We would prefer to have it as a line item.

Our community is very into planning, and we would like to know how much money things are going to cost, so we can make sure the resources are there. When we are robbing Peter to pay Paul and we are moving things around, you are asking where can you cut to pay for these things.

GCN: How much more IT-savvy have CFOs had to become over the last two years?

CARNEY: We always have been IT-savvy. I think that if you want to ask us about schema and how things are programmed, we don't care about that. That is what the CIOs get paid to do. There has been a greater emphasis on our trying to broaden how we think about what our functional requirements are. That is probably the biggest change.

We are thinking across the enterprise. Now we might want to think about how they do things over in the Treasury Department and how it impacts what we do here. So we should think across the whole federal government from start to finish, how the process works and what we have to do. That gets into your data standardization, lines of business and the Central Contractor Registry. We all have to deal with intergovernmental transactions because they impact our financial statements.

GCN: Are CFOs becoming more involved in enterprise architecture efforts?

CARNEY: I think so. We have a lot of functional expertise, and we know a lot about how our organizations work. The new spin is that in addition to following the money, now we have to link performance data with financial data, and we are trying to figure out how to do that. We will need systems to do that. That is the new challenge.

I also think it has been captured beautifully in the JFMIP financial management framework. We have broadened the scope, and when the exposure draft hits, people will see we have put a lot of thought into a much broader perspective.

I'm interested in coding structure and data standardization very much. It helps me do my job, which is more than just to produce financial statements. I have to be able to isolate activities that we are doing and direct them to a program. Having data linked to the initiative is harder than it seems.

GCN: What are the top five issues your committee faces and how will it address them?

CARNEY: The first is to eliminate federal system and financial data redundancy. From a financial management perspective, we want to have sets of books for all entities in an agency. Each of those books must be tied to one another so they can roll up in an automated fashion and create the overall set of books for an agency. And then all of those books for all agencies can create the governmentwide book.

The goal is to have systems integrate more easily where you can control your financial information and it rolls up and down the way it needs to. I don't ever see one gigantic general ledger system that every governmental entity does their business in. The logistics, complexity and scaling alone, I cannot even fathom it.

The second goal is working with OMB on the lines of business. OMB e-government and IT administrator Karen Evans and Labor Department CFO Sam Mok are trying to figure out if there is a way we can do one business case submission for all financial management systems across the government. We will look for areas where we are able to do that type of standardization and where we can get all data elements.

Our third goal is better defining agency CFO roles and responsibilities as they pertain to e-government. We have pretty good participation in a number of e-government projects, such as E-Grants and E-Loans. We want to make sure there is consensus in our community about what we are saying and the direction we are driving this stuff.

Another one of our top issues is shining a light on enterprise software buys through the SmartBuy licensing program.

Our final goal is integrating performance data with budget data. A lot of organizations are not getting good scores on the PMA on that, and I think the solution will be driven by data and systems that allow agencies to access information and to do something with it.

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