Fleet Financial Management … Call Sign “Money Bags”

Rear Adm. (sel) John P. Polowczyk, USFF NO2F

Capt. John Polowczyk

     The timing of this article is unique as it comes at a point of great fiscal uncertainty with the threat of sequestration and potential significant reductions in funding across the Navy.  As the Fleet Forces Comptroller, I’m directly in the middle of ensuring the Atlantic Fleet’s financial needs are met and well understood by our senior Naval leadership during these historic times. 

     In this article — and the three that follow from Supply Corps officers from across the Atlantic Fleet — the focus will be on how financial managers contribute in the generation of fleet readiness. 

Specifically, I will cover …

• Generating readiness and the Readiness Kill Chain (RKC)

• Fleet Comptroller roles and responsibilities

• Current issues impacting Financial Managers across the Fleet

• How to become the “Fleet Comptroller”

Readiness Kill Chain

     Any discussion about generating fleet readiness would be incomplete without first discussing the Readiness Kill Chain, or RKC.  The RKC is the end-to-end process for ensuring tight coordination across Fleets, System Commands (SYSCOMs), and Type Commands (TYCOMs), and other partners throughout the readiness production battle space.  Like any sound strategy, the RKC incorporates ends, ways, and means.  Specifically, it identifies the resources that will be used (means), how will they be used (ways), and the desired strategic outcomes (ends).  In our RKC, the readiness pillars — personnel, equipment, supplies, training, ordnance, installations, and networks — are the means; the procurement, acquisition, and early Fleet Readiness Training Plan (FRTP) phases are the ways; and ready, forward-deployed forces are the ends.


     Defined correctly, the RKC encompasses the entire Navy.  Everyone is part of the RKC, and everyone must know and understand their place and role to effectively influence all factors.  The key to effective execution will be the ability for the Fleet to shape activities early enough in the RKC to maximize the relevance and quality of all inputs for the FRTP process.  Success will be determined by the strength of the working relationships among all Echelons, including the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretariat staffs.  This will require the understanding and codification of key supported and supporting relationships with the TYCOMS, SYSCOMS, Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), and Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). 


     As fleet financial managers, my staff extends across all three areas of means, ways and ends.  If you are working in the BSO 60 comptroller shop, you’re working across many areas of the RKC to include resource policy, working relationships with OPNAV staff/resources sponsors, and ensuring funding is appropriately aligned across programs and platforms as they progress through the FRTP and into sustainment.  Everyone is part of the RKC … even Fleet bean counters!


Comptroller Roles and Responsibilities


     Now that I’ve covered how Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, thinks about generating readiness; here is what I do as a Fleet Comptroller and how I and others in the Fleet Comptroller Office help generate readiness. 


     First and foremost, I am the Chief Financial advisor to the Commander.  In this capacity, I do not set or define requirements.  As the Budget Submitting Office (BSO 60) Comptroller, I have overall responsibility for budget formulation and execution, financial management, and accounting.  In essence, I have direct authority over the entire Atlantic Fleet checkbook, which on any given Fiscal Year is in the range of $11 billion.  Counting the oversight on the prior years, our staff and business systems provide oversight and leadership for more than $60 billion.  The comptroller organization is here to ensure we maximize the fleet’s buying power and that we efficiently and effectively apply these resources to enable the “ends.”


     To enable the “ends,” the comptroller staff works with all the Atlantic Fleet Type Commanders, the East coast shipyards at Norfolk, Va., and Portsmouth, N.H, the Regional Maintenance Centers in Norfolk and Mayport, Fla., Trident Refit Facility in Kings Bay, Ga., the Naval Component Commanders (NAVCENT and NAVEUR), Fleet Cyber Command (10th Fleet) and the various other shore commands under Fleet Forces Command.


     As the Fleet Comptroller, I have been delegated or received a “Bag Letter” from the Fleet Commander.  In this delegation, I have 100 percent financial responsibility under 31 U.S.C. Section 1517.  Simply stated, I’m the guy who has the “go-to-jail-card” if the Atlantic Fleet spends more than its allocation.  The Financial Managers in the Comptroller office work diligently to budget, account and monitor every aspect of the financial resources we are given. 


     Financial transactions are the byproduct of functional and operational decisions.  In support of these decisions, the Atlantic Fleet executes, on average, more than 12 million financial transactions a year.  A primary responsibility for every Financial Manager across the Atlantic Fleet is the prompt recording of these commitments and obligations in our financial accounting records.  The Comptroller organization is here to ensure these 12 million transactions and the Sailors and civilians who make them have the correct policies and procedures in place and that we adhere to requirements of all financial management regulations as well as accounting standards. 


     Every one of these transactions must be properly priced and accurately recorded so I can certify to the completeness and accuracy of the Fleet’s financial statements.  These accurate financial statements reflect the production of readiness.  In essence, we work both the left and right side of the RKC to ensure resources are aligned and applied, as well as properly accounted for.


Current Issues Impacting Financial Managers


     Creating 21st century financial managers is a key tasking for the continued generation of Fleet readiness.  All financial managers, both civilian and military, must work toward this end.  There are two big issues impacting the work force as we go forward … Financial Management Certification (FM CERT), and Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR). 


     Both civilian and military who fill positions in comptroller organizations will be required to achieve a certification level based on grade and position.  This new requirement stems from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (Public Law 112-81), which provided the Secretary of Defense the authority to prescribe professional certification and credentialing standards.


     In simple terms, much like DAWIA if you’re in a FM position, in a comptroller organization you will be required to reach a specific certification level (FM 1, 2, or 3).  Achieving these levels will be based on course hours across multiple FM competencies.  While the specifics on the roll out and implantation are still being formed, the FM CERT will be a mechanism to help create 21st century FM professionals.


     Along with FM certification, each comptroller organization in BSO 60 is working actions under FIAR.  In a follow-on article by Cmdr. Milton Troy, he describes his journey leading my FIAR team.  FIAR is a program to help guide the department to auditable financial statements and flows from the fiscal year (FY) 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which prescribes that Department of Defense (DoD) financial statements must be auditable Sept. 30, 2017. 


     What I’m most excited about is the FI part of FIAR … the Financial Improvement portion of the process.


     Financial improvement is the process of providing standard business processes that are repeatable and auditable.  The combination of increased education and standardization of business processes will enable the fleet to reach and maintain audit readiness, as well as create 21st century FM professionals who have the best tools and training to help achieve increases in Fleet readiness.



Becoming the Fleet Comptroller


     So how did I become the Fleet Comptroller?  The real answer is, my detailer called and interrupted me on the 5th tee box while I was playing the Sea and Air Golf Course on NAS Coronado.  I’m not sure if I was excited, overjoyed or just not expecting the call, but needless to say, I did not play a great round after that call! 


     While that may be the actual event I think most readers want a little more out of this journey than my golf game. 


     I think the answer is simple … I listened to my mentors, I acquired the right mix of skills across several tours both in and out of financial management all the while competing amongst my peers.  I have had three tours in financial management that have spanned a spectrum of responsibilities … a major acquisition program, TYCOM comptroller, and a Navy Secretariat position.  A progression of increasing responsibilities and complexities in financial management while ensuring I have gained the educational foundations from course work as well as time on deck. 


     Even with my background, I will be required to build on these tours and educational foundations under the new FM certification level.  As a Captain, I’ll be required to gain a FM level three certification as the Fleet Comptroller.  Whoever comes after me will be required to have experience and educational foundations under the FM certification program.  So, if you want to be the Fleet Comptroller, you will have to have had more than one financial management tour.  Like DAWIA, you will have to be offered a period of time to gain your educational portion of the certification.   

By Capt. John Polowczyk, Comptroller, United States Fleet Forces Command