BY CMDR. WILLIAM T. BENHAM, SC, USN, DEPUTY BFM, PMA 242 DIRECT AND TIME SENSITIVE STRIKE WEAPONS, NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND
Strong financial management is key to the long–term success of the Supply Corps. Everything we do as Supply Corps officers, in some fashion, involves financial management. From disbursing officer to senior supply officer afloat to business financial manager (BFM) for a major acquisition weapon system, our livelihood and fleet operational readiness depend directly on strong financial management.
Becoming a Career Financial Manager
The first opportunity you have in the Supply Corps to become a career financial manager is via the internship program. This program allows junior officers the opportunity to experience financial management first-hand from a major systems command perspective. In this tour, officers can rotate through different program offices to gain a better understanding of financial management.
The second opportunity is your postgraduate education selection. At this point you will most likely attend the Naval Postgraduate School and earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in financial management. Earning this degree requires a three–year payback tour in financial management. You can also choose to attend a civilian institution and earn your MBA.
Jobs Available for Financial Managers
There are two distinct financial management tracks. Comptrollership and business financial management as it relates to acquisition. Examples of financial management billets are: type commander budget officer, fleet comptroller staff, fleet comptroller, program office analyst, program executive officer staff, Naval Supply Systems Command comptroller staff, and staff in the Office of Chief of Naval Operations.
An ideal financial management tour may be found at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), which is the pinnacle of naval aviation acquisition and currently has the most Supply Corps BFM billets in one location. This is a strong tour for senior lieutenants, lieutenant commanders, and commanders who wish to establish themselves in the financial management community amidst strong competition.
Financial Manager Expectations
Once you are placed in a financial management billet, expect to become a focal point in your organization. You will be expected to receive, issue, and manage funding for several organizations or programs. For example, in a program office you are the knowledgeable cog that orchestrates budget builds and execution. As a financial manager, you will be working closely with the integrated product teams (IPTs), program managers, contracting officers, comptrollers and resource sponsors.
Working closely with IPTs, you will ensure that all funding is being planned, programmed, budgeted and executed in a timely manner. Coordinating the IPT technical input into yearly budget submissions is also critical because the budget drives future readiness. An accurate and well-thought-out budget to support your program enables execution of multiple appropriations within your organization. Frequently, program managers will look to you for financial advice to address the program objective memorandum (POM) cycle and the planning, programming, budgeting and execution process. Working with the contracting officer, you will be coordinating funds availability, obligation phasing plans, statements of work, and procurement initiation documents to ensure funding is awarded on a contract. However, one of the BFM’s most important relationships is with your comptroller. You will work closely together to interpret budget policies, budget guidance, address any programmatic updates, coordinate reclamas for Congressional budget marks and work through fiduciary responsibilities. Finally, the resource sponsor will work closely with you in understanding POM guidance, POM brief coordination, resource justification, financial management drills, below threshold reprogramming and above threshold reprogramming actions.
Certifications, Additional Qualifications and Subspecialties
The current Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Business Financial Manager certification experience requirements are:
- Level 1: 2 years acquisition experience in Financial Management
- Level 2: 4 years acquisition experience in Financial Management
- Level 3: 6 years acquisition experience in Financial Management
To gain day-to-day acquisition experience in financial management, you must be in an acquisition coded billet. At a minimum, two tours in an acquisition coded billet for financial management will allow you to achieve DAWIA Level 3 certification. In addition, you will also need to complete the required Defense Acquisition University education requirements for each DAWIA Level certification. Once you have met the time and education requirements, you will be awarded an Additional Qualification Designation (AQD) or AK 1/2/3.
Another required certification that has recently been implemented is the Department of Defense Financial Management Certification (DoD FM). The experience requirements are generally the same as the DAWIA requirements except for the DoD FM Level 3 certification. Instead of six years of financial management experience, it requires eight years of financial management experience. When you achieve DoD FM certification, you’ll receive the AQDs of NS 1/2/3.
There are two subspecialty codes you may receive during your financial management tour. The subspecialty code 3111 is for a financial manager. The subspecialty code 3112 is for a comptroller. Depending on your experience status, you will receive a suffix after your subspecialty code that indicates different levels of experience. For example:
S – Experience Tour
R – Multiple Experience Tours
P – Master’s Degree
Q – Master’s and Experience Tour(s)
An optional certification you can achieve is the Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM) or CDFM-A (A stands for acquisition). To achieve this certification, you must pass three exams for the CDFM certification and a fourth one on acquisition for the CDFM-A. Once you have passed the tests, you will be assigned an AQD of NR1 or NR2 for CDFM or CDFM-A respectively.
As the fiscal environment continues to feel pressure from all sides, it is imperative that the Supply Corps develop seasoned financial managers with the appropriate level of fiscal knowledge to ensure that we continue to meet fleet requirements. A career as a financial manager is extremely rewarding because you will consistently be interacting with a variety of organizations and professionals while touching every Supply Corps line of operation. Sound financial management is at the epicenter of what we do and it is the key to ensuring that we achieve fleet operational readiness.