The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Andrew Maner interview

Friday, December 3rd, 2004 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"This year we’re focused on visibility and common steps of financials that we can review and execute against. It comes down to having an integrated system such as eMerge2 that will provide better visibility on what is spent and what programs work."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/04/2004
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results...

Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results

Complete transcript: 

Friday, October 29, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created The Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about our programs and publications by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Andy Maner, Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Homeland Security.

Good morning, Andy.

Mr. Maner: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Dave Abel.

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Abel: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Andy, let's start by talking about the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Budget and Finance. Could you give us some background and describe the size and composition?

Mr. Maner: Well, the CFO's office at Homeland Security really encompasses about five different functions: that includes budget, finance and accounting or financial management, strategic planning, financial systems, and GAO and IG audit liaison. So those are the primary functions that make up the office of the CFO at DHS.

Mr. Lawrence: What type of skills do you have on your team? What are the skills that people have on your team?

Mr. Maner: Well, it certainly varies, of course, by office. You would normally have quite a bit of budget expertise, both execution and formulation experience, in your budget office. In the finance office, you typically might have, of course, CPAs, accounting types. And then in strategic planning, as you move into financial systems, these are people with a broad background of either accounting, budget, or possibly systems experience. So it is a bit of a blend, but you do tend to find people who do focus on numbers or systems, per se.

Mr. Lawrence: And are they a tenured team? As you were describing the offices, I thought about level of complexity and imagined somewhat older, more experienced.

Mr. Maner: It's a range. Again, when you look at Homeland, really in any of our offices, where people came from, their age, their experience, it's a variety, because when we set up the Department, we inherited a lot of people from other departments. That was part of the transformation and how Homeland was created, and then we've hired a lot since then. So you would definitely find a blend of people. And as you know, I think good financial management personnel don't grow on trees, and so you have to work pretty hard to find good people, especially in a major metropolitan area like this, which you have to compete for resources quite a bit with private sector firms, et cetera.

Mr. Abel: Let's focus a little bit on you. What are your specific roles and responsibilities as the Chief Financial Officer for DHS?

Mr. Maner: Well, in a sentence or two, it's, of course, to be the steward of the financial resources that exist in the Department of Homeland Security. So it is certainly my job to obtain the financial resources that drive our department, but it's also to be the steward of those resources, to make sure they're spent in the right way and we execute according to regulations and laws that govern our department and others. So it's being the primary financial conscience, if you will, of the organization. That's how I describe it.

Mr. Abel: Let's talk a little bit about your background. What experiences did you have before being appointed to CFO?

Mr. Maner: My background is really about a 50-50 blend of private sector and public sector experience, and some of it revolved around financial management and some of it didn't. My career began in government. I was in the first Bush administration for a few years. And after we lost the election, I guess we say, I continued to stay with President Bush for about six months, six to nine months after that.

I stayed in government after that and went over to Somalia for a time to help set up the -- what is now called the Coalition Provisional Authority over there. It was really the civilian-military mix in Somalia. So I stayed there for a while doing just a little bit of everything in terms of running that organization. That was a U.N.-sponsored organization.

After coming back from Somalia, in fact, being evacuated from Somalia, I really focused on the private sector portion of my career. I was at the Chicago Board of Trade for a time. I got my MBA in finance and then really moved into more of an entrepreneurial phase of starting companies and managing those, growing them, merging them, et cetera.

After 9/11, I came back into government, was pulled back into public service, and I was at Customs, where I was the Chief of Staff there. But, you know, primarily, one of the great experiences of the Customs, couple years I spent there, was that after Homeland was created, I was in charge of the merger of Customs, which was the merging of Customs and many parts of the old INS and parts of the Department of Agriculture.

So, in a sentence or two, it's really a blend of private and public sector experience, which I just find fascinating, that mix.

Mr. Lawrence: What drew you back to public service?

Mr. Maner: Well, public service, there's just nothing like it in my mind. In fact, I hope my career continues to be that blend. The stakes that exist in public service, I think for people who have been in it for a long time, they often forget about the dollar amounts they're dealing with and the high-level stakes that they're dealing with, but I just find that public service is the most noble cause that exists. And it's hard, and a lot of times, there's not a handbook. You're constantly under scrutiny and you just -- there's not a lot of room for error. So I think it's the noblest calling, and I personally enjoy it very, very much.

Mr. Abel: With this balance between public and private sector work, what are the major differences in working in each of those sectors?

Mr. Maner: Well, I think there are a lot of differences. I think it's interesting in financial management, I actually kind of view the public and private sector as kind of coming a little bit closer together with Sarbanes-Oxley and some of the new requirements put on the private sector. The private sector's getting a feel for somewhat greater oversight, which certainly exists in the government. So there's a similarity there, or at least a growing similarity.

But in the private sector, accountability of people is a very important thing. You get issued a task and you have to do that task, and oftentimes your compensation rides on it or, in some cases, your job rides on it. That's one difference. I think you have to spend more time in the government cultivating and training your people, because that's going to be your team. And so I have found in the public sector, I spend more time on people issues, and that can be a positive and a negative, but I think you have to work hard to develop your own people.

I would say, I would have said three years ago, that the public sector moved at a slower pace than the private sector. But from my experience here at Homeland Security, I wouldn't say that anymore. We're moving at a very, very fast pace. So maybe I'm saying that some of the differences are narrowing between the two.

Mr. Abel: Has the experience in the Department of Homeland Security and the pace, with which it's moving, has that changed some of the challenges that the public sector faces in performing its mission?

Mr. Maner: Well, I think that there isn't room for error. I think we all come to work at DHS knowing that -- I mean, there's a lot of clich�s about Homeland Security, about, you know, you have to be right 100 percent of the time, you can't ever be wrong. But yeah, I think it's changed the complexity of government for sure, because my given day and that of my employees is we have a mission to carry out, and that is to support the Department and to make sure our frontline people have what they need to get the job done. But almost a secondary job, but takes just as much time, we have to build a department. Those are almost two full-time jobs right there. So the people that work for me and I think work in the Department, they have stepped up to that and it's not easy. And so it's not -- when they talk to their friends at other departments, it's not always the same lifestyle, for sure.

Mr. Lawrence: Andy, as you were describing your career, I couldn't help but think that you've had some pretty profound moments in your career, and thinking about those lessons learned. So let me take you through what I heard: part of an administration that was not selected to come back; being in Somalia, a very difficult situation; getting an MBA and a specialized career; and then sort of 9/11. I'm curious about, you know, the lessons you learned in a couple of those situations and how you're applying them now in your job.

Mr. Maner: Well, I think that it's interesting that my first job out of college was working for the President of the United States, and so what is something that you learn there? You learn a very high stakes existence pretty quickly. I think you learn to deal with adversity. I think you learn to deal with a look around you that is not complete; it's up to you to fill in the blanks. And that's what I think management and leadership is, is filling in the spectrum for your employees. And I think at an early age being in the White House taught that.

In Somalia, again, I actually did think that being in Somalia would be the hardest job I ever had in my life, but maybe Homeland might surpass that. But Somalia was -- there was no handbook. There was no handbook for how to achieve peace. There was no handbook for how to contain starvation. There was no handbook for how to do nation-building, as it was -- that was a new term back then. And you just had to figure it out. You had to get the resources and figure it out.

And so those experiences at a young age, for me, really taught me that it's really about initiative and about leadership. And people often ask me, well, you were the CFO, but you were in the press office in the White House. How are those similar? Well, to me, these are management jobs. What I'm in now, it's not important if I'm a CPA or an MBA, it's important that I manage, and that's really what I've been trying to build in my life is that capability.

Mr. Lawrence: Interesting, especially the part about filling in the blanks.

How is the budget for the Department of Homeland Security formulated and how is the money allocated? We'll ask Andy Maner, CFO of the Department, to take us through this when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Andy Maner, Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Andy, beginning with the budget for 2005, a performance budget is going to substitute for the annual performance plan required by the Government Performance and Results Act. Can you give us some details about this?

Mr. Maner: Well, the overall budget process is really quite intricate in government, and it's about getting the resources. But as you suggested, it's about providing the results for those dollars. And so we spend a lot of time in the Department formulating the budget and looking at what initiatives should the Department be doing. You know, of course, resources are not unlimited, and so we are trying very, very hard to put together a package that reflects the current threat picture against the United States, and that's really what we try and do.

And then, of course, once we move into where we have signed a bill, we move very hard into tracking that money and trying to make sure it's doing what it's designed to do. And there are many, many avenues in government to do that from when you send your 300 submissions over to OMB to Homeland actually has one more assignment, and it has to provide a future years budget, a five-year look at our budget.

So there are many acronyms and many papers that fly around, but what it all culminates with is on February -- the first Tuesday of every February, we will hand a budget to the Congress. The President will hand a budget to Congress. And by that point, it's obviously our goal to have it very tight, have there be no doubt what those resources are to be used for.

Mr. Abel: This whole process is very interesting, so maybe we can dive into some of those components. You mentioned that there's a strategic plan and a future years Homeland Security program. There's also the planning program and budgeting system. How do these components work together? What's the vision or view of how these components should relate with each other?

Mr. Maner: Well, again, as you suggested, there are lots of acronyms and lots of things. What we are trying to do, and we're not done, is to create a year-long calendar that everybody knows and everybody understands. And by everyone I mean the agencies, the agency heads, Congress, OMB. And so every department does it slightly different.

And so we've had to build ours, and so you begin really in the spring formulating for a budget two years from now. And so you would go through, and we will build our budgets off of a strategic plan. We want our budgets to reflect the strategic plans that we've put forth to the Congress so that people know, hey, we are trying to fund these types of initiatives.

And so you don't want to -- having to do a five-year budget allows you to not start from scratch each year. You know really, you have the base of your programs, but the threat picture may change. And so each budget cycle, you want to make sure you engage the agencies, you want to make sure they have a chance to make their pitch to not only me and our staff, but to the Secretary or to the Deputy Secretary.

So all of those things, and you mentioned, you know, PBBS, again another acronym for programming, planning, budgeting, and execution, which is really -- that's really important. That's a system, and we haven't perfected it, but we're trying to get to a calendar that everyone understands.

Mr. Abel: Yeah. How far along are you in the implementation of this method? How's it being received within the organizations at DHS?

Mr. Maner: I think it's being received okay. I think that everyone at DHS, you know, is used to new things coming at them, and we try and not tip people over with a lot of new requirements. We are really asking for the same thing we've asked for the last two years, but we're doing it in a more concise and a more transparent format. And, you know, as I say, it's all driven by the calendar. You have to submit your budget in the summer for two years from now, then you get your pass back, and then you submit on the first Tuesday in February.

So I think it's being received well. Again, most people have been in government. So as it relates to budget, they kind of know the drill.

Mr. Abel: So if we shift from the budgeting/planning side to the execution side, for 2005, DHS requested $40.2 billion, which is a 10 percent increase over last year. Can you tell us a little bit about how that money gets allocated on the bill side, and the operations then come after the planning phase?

Mr. Maner: Sure. Again, we allow -- you want people to begin to think about the budget in an unconstrained way first, which is if you had all the money in the world, what would you do to secure America? Then you hone it down. And then, of course, our '05 budget gets submitted by the President, and then the Congress really passes that. And of course, our '05 bill was just passed in October, so we're very pleased to have a 2005 appropriation.

But for us, we have many, many operating agencies and only a small amount of money. And so we allow people to pitch their budgets as to how they affect and better the strategic plan of the Department. And so for us, it's not any different than any other department. We want the people who have the most innovative programs, who do the most to secure and have the most performance metrics for those dollars to get the money.

In Homeland, we have such great agencies that we inherited, and some new very important startup agencies, such as IAIP, which an intelligence analysis unit; we have science and technology, which is an R&D component. So again, our funding is pretty well spread to all of our components, and again, the success for any budget is to work with the administration and then to work with Congress, and you spend most of your summer doing that and having hearings.

Mr. Lawrence: Andy, you talk about the fact that you would have many demands for the scarce resources you have. How is conflict resolved in that situation, conflict in the sense that, you know, everybody wants the little that's left?

Mr. Maner: We've had a very great -- we had a very -- and again, I've only been here for this budget cycle, the '05 and into the '06, so I can -- but we've had a great experience in that the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary have believed very strongly in bringing together the senior management team at every turn so that they are hearing the programs of all of the agencies. Instead of just coming in, and let's say I'm the commandant of the Coast Guard, and pitching my budget, I will actually hear at a forum everyone's budget. And I have found that everyone realizes that while they're not the only one doing great work, there's a lot of great work going on in the Department. So as it relates to budget, I think we've been able to really reduce that conflict that could exist.

And frankly, though, Homeland Security's been very well funded by the administration and Congress. So, you know, we don't have maybe as much conflict as we would if we weren't getting upticks in our budget.

Mr. Lawrence: You talked about execution at the end of the planning and allocating the budget, so I'd like to talk about one of the management initiatives that's going on, e-MERGE2, or the Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Efficiency and Effectiveness. Can you give us some background on this project that I believe just recently started?

Mr. Maner: E-MERGE2 is really a financial systems effort, but you could call it a financial transformation effort. It is Homeland Security's attempt to really cajole the financial systems, the many, many that we had inherited, into a more usable format. And I'm careful not to say that you want just one system, but e-MERGE is an effort to make sure that we have a way to very quickly have visibility into our finances and the billions of dollars of grants we give out very quickly, and to integrate that with our procurement asset management systems. So e MERGE2 is really our backbone for creating one DHS.

As a financial manager or as a secretary, if you don't have good visibility into how dollars are spent and you can't get a dashboard of what these things look like and how you're doing, you really don't have full control over your department. And so that's what e-MERGE is designed to do.

It's worth saying, though, that the government in general has struggled with these types of efforts. Some people have been very successful at rolling out and some people have not. We're trying, as in a lot of areas of Homeland, to not repeat mistakes of the past. We've spent a lot of time on due diligence and looking at what other departments have done, what's worked, what hasn't worked. And so we are trying to do this in a 21st century way.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, I'd be curious to learn about what you learned in the due diligence and also tie that into -- I thought your wording was interesting, that this is a transformation project. I'm sort of wondering what the vision here around those things are.

Mr. Maner: Well, we've learned that you can't just take systems, throw them out, and replace them with the perfect system, because it doesn't really work. Every -- anything you do in financial management revolves around the system and the process with which you use the system. So we're about the work of trying to, you know, create and market those processes in a way that says -- and how you bring the system in; the system is really just the -- that's the tool that allows you to do it, but you need to create a common set of practices and processes to do that, and that's what we're trying to do.

Mr. Lawrence: And the transformation comes from the new processes?

Mr. Maner: Yeah, the transformation is remembering that the financial management staff that we inherited at Homeland and my own staff and that in the Bureau's, they are from virtually five different departments, possibly even more, so they all have different processes. They think about things totally different. So transformation is to transform that thinking into one line of thinking. And that doesn't necessarily mean everyone needs to be on the same system at the same time, but it does mean that everyone needs to follow a common set of processes, and that's transformation.

Mr. Lawrence: How about a timeframe, where we are and how long this will take? Because I know everything at the Department of Homeland Security has to happen fast, but this doesn't sound fast the way you described it.

Mr. Maner: Well, again, I think this will take, you know, at least three years to get the roots deeply engrained, and this isn't going to happen overnight, as you suggest. However, I've often said that financial management is a journey and you have to make progress every year, but you don't need to make one great leap. This year, we're focused on visibility and making sure we have a common set of financials that I can review and see how everyone's doing against their execution; and we want to see -- have visibility into our grants. Again, one of the -- the Secretary says this all the time, one of the primary drivers of Homeland Security is our interaction with state and locals. We produce and provide a lot of money out there, and we want to make sure we have the right visibility into how that's being spent.

Mr. Lawrence: That's interesting, especially the point about visibility.

Management guidance for this administration comes from the President's Management Agenda. How is the Department of Homeland Security implementing the PMA? We'll ask Andy Maner, CFO of the Department, to explain this to us when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Andy Maner. Andy's the Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Andy, in the last segment, we talked a little bit about the due diligence that you did looking at other agencies' implementation of financial management systems. What are some of the things that you learned in looking at other organizations, and how did it change how you will move forward with e MERGE2?

Mr. Maner: Well, it's a good question, Dave. And first of all, I'd make the broader point that the words "due diligence" are often not well understood. Due diligence is something that the private sector takes very, very seriously, and earlier in the show, we talked about differences between the private sector and public sector. When you're taking on a task or a project this big, I think it behooves you to do lots of due diligence, as much as you can do. If you think about the private sector, before they acquire a company, before they do a system, they do lots of due diligence. It's where that word came from. The government I think doesn't take enough time to do it. I think there are lots of examples, and there's lots of data out there that you can learn from. And one of the things we've tried to infuse into e-MERGE and other places within Homeland is do due diligence, look around the federal government and find the best practice and find the things that didn't work.

While we were doing the e-MERGE procurement, there were some pretty high-profile stories out there about some systems that hadn't worked and some agencies that had failed. And what we did was just take a timeout and make sure we understood what was driving that. Again, I don't think that the press always reports these things; that they don't take the care to really dig into why a system's failed, because most people don't understand it. But we took a couple months to do that, and that really pushed our procurement back, but I'd much rather do that up front than somewhere in the middle or at the end of the program. So we've tried to infuse that into e MERGE.

Mr. Abel: Did that make changes to what you'll do going forward as well? Did it make changes to milestones or the direction of the program, what you learned in that research?

Mr. Maner: Most of what we learned, believe it or not, was about project management. It wasn't about technology. It was about how you manage a project of this size. And it gets back to some fundamental things, which is about project buy-in. And sure, there's a lot of data conversion issues, but, to me, what I learned, and this was both from the private sector and the public sector, I spent personally a lot of time talking to companies, all of their things revolved around management.

Mr. Abel: Speaking of management, Steve Cooper, the CIO from DHS, has a great quote on e MERGE2, that it's "changing the wheels on a moving car." What are some of the biggest management challenges dealing with the merging of 22 different agencies' financial systems?

Mr. Maner: You could actually take Steve's quote and blow it up to reflect the whole department. I mean, it's changing engines in mid-flight, changing the wheels on a moving car. Homeland Security doesn't have time to sit, make it perfect, and then relaunch. We have to move.

The biggest management challenges are about getting people to see and accept a one DHS vision, and that revolves around people, processes, systems, and locations. Those are the four ways that I look at our management challenges. And I'm careful not to try and attack all four at once. You know, you say where are the financial management people in the Department? Well, that one's really not important now.

What's important now is that we set up standard operating processes and we work the systems angle. There will be time to work on the people. Do we have the right skills sets? Are they in the right cities? Do we have too many of this, too many of that? One example I'd give you is when we created Homeland Security, we had 19 different financial management providers. We've consolidated that in one year down to 10, and this year we will be down to 8. So we're doing some consolidation, and that does remain to be one of the goals that I have.

Mr. Lawrence: The management agenda for this administration is in the President's Management Agenda. How's DHS doing implementing the PMA?

Mr. Maner: Well, there's really two parts of the PMA that I look at very closely, and, of course, that's budget and performance integration and financial management. And we talked a little bit earlier in the show about how you link budget and performance, and that's both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. And the second is financial management and making sure we have clean financials and we are stewarding the money properly.

DHS, in 2003, did a financial audit, as an example, when it wasn't required to. We did that to start getting people in the habit of financial management and accountability. We did another of course, we did an audit this year and, again, we were more ready for it this year. So the PMA drives a lot of what we do. We still have a long way to go on it. I think Homeland being a remember, I think one of the most compelling parts about Homeland is it is a collection of mergers; it's a collection of acquisitions, startups. It's really a conglomerate of a lot of different things. And we can't treat any of our agencies the same. We might have a startup over here or we might have the Coast Guard that is over 200 years old. So you have to treat them very, very differently.

Mr. Lawrence: I'm curious about your perspective on the linkage between budget and performance, especially around management. I mean, some argue that it's being done. But until we can link, you know, budget to sort of accountability at an individual level and begin to make some hard choices, and by that I mean not necessarily giving more money to programs that are in trouble, but maybe taking money and giving it to the programs that are really doing well so that we can be more effective, I'm curious about where you think budget and performance integration is relative to where it has to go.

Mr. Maner: Well, any CFO anywhere in the government, and I'm sure in the private sector, will tell you that there is no mountaintop, there is no peak, it is something that evolves, it is something that continues. One of the things we are trying to do at Homeland is get away from the belief that if it was in my budget last year, it's in my budget for the next year, and then I'll add some new initiatives on top of it. I call that mining the base. I don't think the government does that well enough. And that's one of the things we're trying to do at Homeland, to say we have, as you suggested earlier, almost a $40 billion budget, what was working in '05? What didn't work? What didn't secure the homeland? So that we can move those resources, and that's accountability. That's taking resources from a program that's not working and giving it to someone that has a program and a way to measure the program.

So again, I'll go back to my "it's a journey." You have to get better every day. We have a ways to go here, but we're pretty committed to it.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, let me drill more on this mining the base, because it sounds very -- tell us about some of the management challenges and what works doing that.

Mr. Maner: Well, again, mining the base, or whatever you want to call it, is all about visibility, and we talked about it. Now I'm linking e-MERGE into this discussion, because if you don't have visibility into the dollars, you are forever in an information-gathering mode, and I would rather be in an information analysis mode. We have, of course, a great staff who is constantly on the hunt for information, but it takes a lot of time in government to get the information, and I'd rather spend more time analyzing the data so that I can look at a secretary of my department and say let me tell you, I know this program, it's working and here's how I know it's working and I would recommend this to it the next year. So it's really, really about visibility.

Mr. Abel: Andy, technology is a leverage in most of the things that are done in the Department, and when we think of technology, we tend to think of the technology in fulfilling the mission in the field. But technology has to be a big lever for you, an advantage for you to getting visibility, to getting to analyze information in the way that you need to be able to make decisions. What are some of the ways that you're using information technology and e-government initiatives to enhance financial performance at the Department?

Mr. Maner: Well, technology is, as you suggest, the great lever for really moving successful programs forward. My reliance on technology will come down to systems, to the financial systems or to e-MERGE. Certainly you can have tactical pieces of technology that allow you to do budget formulation better or allow you to do a certain thing in finance better, produce your financial statements, that sort of thing. But really, for us, it comes down to having an integrated system that will provide us better visibility. So there's tactical things using technology you can, but you really -- for us, we are going to have to do a broader step, which is e-MERGE.

Mr. Lawrence: That's an interesting point, especially about the visibility and technology.

What are the implications and management challenges of being the CFO for a young or relatively new cabinet agency? We'll ask Andy Maner of the Department of Homeland Security for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Andy Maner, the Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

And joining us in our conversation is Dave Abel.

Mr. Abel: Andy, previously, we talked a little bit about in the development of the budget, developing the budgets for the mission without resource constraints. But in the real world, in the Department, there are resource constraints. How do you work collaboratively to be able to fulfill the mission of the Department with those resource constraints in place?

Mr. Maner: Well, the best thing you can do -- again, we're about the business of supporting the mission, and so the best thing you can do is run -- is you have to start a process that allows people to think uninhibited. You have great policy minds. There's a lot of great people in Homeland who have come from the intel community or DoD or other places. You've got to let them be thinking about how best to do this. Then -- and then you can put the box around it that says, well, we can only afford this much this year, but, hey, let's think about putting some of this in '07, let's build on this and start to show a vision that we're serious about this program.

And so Homeland and the way we do budgeting allows us to do that and allows us to show a commitment to a certain program. And I think that's good for the mission, because I think it allows people to come to Homeland and say, wow, I can get a program done here, funded and done here. So that's how we do it, and it really does start with, as any problem is ever solved in the private sector, you brainstorm first, unconstrained by things, and then you hone in on what you can do.

Mr. Abel: I would imagine one of the most difficult decisions that you have to make is to prioritize how you apply the resources of the Department. How do you make the determination and the tradeoffs of what to do now versus what to do tomorrow?

Mr. Maner: It is; it's very tough. It's very tough because we have some very compelling missions in Department of Homeland Security. We have the Coast Guard, which is fulfilling a very important port security role and really maritime security role. You have Customs and Border Protection, which is making great leaps on the border and really creating a border that's much more efficient and much more tighter against terrorism and other forms of illegal immigration.

So you have some great agencies, and so it is tough. But that's why, as we talked in the middle or earlier, that you have your whole management team involved. And the Secretary makes a decision based on his input from his senior management team, his or her senior management team, and that's what we've done and that's really worked for us. And because we're still growing and because homeland security as a term, it didn't even really exist before 9/11, we're still evolving. We still have TSA in a growth mode. We still have CBP securing the borders. We're going to need to be doing this prioritization for a long time.

Mr. Abel: When you turn on the television or when you read the newspaper and you read about the Department of Homeland Security, you often read about new technology, you read about new whiz-bang devices to be able to achieve parts of the mission. But when you really get down to it, the Department of Homeland Security is about people. It's about the right people in the right place to be able to protect our country. What is the Department doing to be able to invest in its human resources?

Mr. Maner: Well, as you suggest, the way we approach technology is technology is the enabler. We know we're not going to grow to millions of people in the Department. We have to make the people that we have more efficient, and there's a few ways to do that. The first and probably the foremost way to do that is give them technology that works. Give the Customs and Border Protection inspector the right radiation equipment. Give him or her the right entry system with US-VISIT. So the best way you can do it, in my opinion, is to give them the tools to do their job better.

When you take it off of mission and you take it into something, a mission support role, like our office, it's about investing in people. I don't want to be hiring 15, 20 people new every year. I want people to stay. I want people to want to work at Homeland Security because of the mission, and then I want to develop them. I want them to be able to say I was in budget last year; maybe I'm going to go take a tour and work in accounting or financial management. So I'm going to rotate people. I'm going to do all the things that I've learned in the private sector about job enrichment to make people want to stay with me or, at a minimum, in Homeland Security.

Mr. Abel: Now, the Department has unique flexibilities in the employment of civil servants. How does that program, the HR program, relate to you and the Chief Financial Officer's office?

Mr. Maner: Homeland Security has done a structure where a lot of our offices are under an Under Secretary for Management, and I think that allows us to really gather together with the CIO, human capital, CFO, chief procurement officer to make sure we're leaning forward on practices in government. And you mentioned the HR one specifically, but there's -- we do have some unique flexibilities, and I want to make sure we're taking advantage of those because, again, we say it all the time, we don't want to be another department of government, we want to be the leading department. We want to be a 21st century department that people want to work for. We're not there yet. People are still thinking, oh, Homeland, it's really hard, should I go there? But we think with our mission and the funding we've received, this is a really good place to work.

Mr. Abel: So shifting gears a little bit, in order to be able to effectively use the budget that you've been given and to work in a resource-constrained environment, you need to focus on efficiency and effectiveness of your programs. Currently, DHS is working to achieve that 100 percent of the programs will have at least one efficiency measure. What other steps do you think needs to be taken to be able to accomplish this goal?

Mr. Maner: Well, again, I think we're still in an education mode. We need to understand these programs, and you and I talked earlier about looking at past programs. And I think the one thing that we're going to make sure we're doing is looking at the past performance of programs, maybe they're even 10 years old or 20 years old, and make sure they're fulfilling their mission. I don't want to see us just looking at the new things and saying, well, how are we doing on baggage screening or on port security? I want to look at all of the functions, trade enforcement, all of the things we do, figure out if they are doing their mission. If not, close them down and do new things.

Mr. Lawrence: You're the CFO of a relatively young department. When you meet at the CFO Council and talk to the CFOs of more mature departments, how do your conversations reconcile? What are the management issues, and are they different or similar?

Mr. Maner: Well, those conversations usually begin with them, my counterparts, patting me on the back and wishing me luck. But again, I think we mentioned the idea of two full-time jobs, and right now, we do have two full-time jobs. We have to support the mission of homeland security, but we have to build a department, one that will stay if administrations change. This department's here to stay.

And so for me, that's about building and developing people; it's about providing visibility of financials and budget information; it's about integrating the financial management people within Homeland to make sure we're doing things one way; and dare I say this in the financial management community, it's actually about having some fun, too, while you're doing that, and certainly we try and do that at work. It's something that I've always done. I've had -- I've worked for some people who have had some serious jobs in their life. I've worked for two presidents, and I've always noticed that they have fun. And we deal with some pretty serious subjects, but if you provide a fun place to work, I believe that you can get a lot done. And if people -- if they dread coming to work and they don't understand their mission and they don't understand how they fit into the mission, you're not going to get good work out of them.

Mr. Lawrence: As you indicated in the first segment when we talked about your career, you've moved through both the sectors, public and private, about half the time. So I'd like to ask you to be reflective and what advice would you give to someone perhaps interested in or just starting out in a career in public service?

Mr. Maner: Well, again, I talk to my friends from business school all the time who are off making lots and lots of money and excelling in the corporate ladder. And I think we have equal respect for each other, because I believe that what's happening here in public service, here in Washington right now, is a redefining of government. And certainly this -- these last four years, we have a new focus in this country. Everyone, every American, is focused on security, somehow, some way. The financial viability of our companies all revolves around security. And so the government, the public sector, is leading the way in how we are going to do business and how these things are going to happen.

So at Homeland, I believe -- my advice to people is come, try out government. The money is good. It's not -- you know, as you move through your career, it might not stay, but in an entry-level position, you can make good money, you will get a higher level of responsibility, you will be dealing with bigger budget numbers, and you will just have a lot more interaction with I think policymakers than you would in the private sector. So I just think it's a wonderful place to start a career and to really, you know, immerse yourself.

Mr. Lawrence: Andy, that'll have to be our last question. Dave and I want to thank you for fitting us in your very busy schedule and being with us this morning.

Mr. Maner: Great. Well, I appreciate both of your time. And I would also mention that if people are interested in working in the government at all or, of course, working at Homeland Security, you could learn more about Homeland Security at www.dhs.gov and, of course, www.usa.jobs.gov, which is a great place to learn about opportunities at Homeland and in the government.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Andy.

Mr. Maner: Thanks.

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Andy Maner, Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org .

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Andrew Maner interview
12/04/2004
"This year we’re focused on visibility and common steps of financials that we can review and execute against. It comes down to having an integrated system such as eMerge2 that will provide better visibility on what is spent and what programs work."

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