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.

Jack Martin interview

Friday, May 2nd, 2003 - 20:00
Jack Martin
Radio show date: 
Sat, 05/03/2003
Intro text: 
Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results...

Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results

Complete transcript: 

McLean, VA

April 8, 2003

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, the co-chairman of The IBM Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1988 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about The Endowment by visiting us on the web at

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Jack Martin. Jack's the chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Education.

Good morning, Jack.

Mr. Martin: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Good morning, Debra.

Ms. Cammer: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Jack, let's start by talking about The Department of Education. Could you give us a sense of its missions and its activities?

Mr. Martin: Okay. Let me first say it's an honor for me to have been appointed by President Bush to be chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Education, and I'm equally honored to be a part of the senior leadership team that's implementing H.R.1, the No Child Left Behind Act. I think this is the most important piece of education reform legislation in our country in the last several decades, with its four pillars of accountability, parental options, flexibility, and research-based teaching methods.

The mission of The Department of Education is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation. Our mission is accomplished through the activities of several program offices, such as the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, and the Office of Federal Student Aid, among others. The Office of Federal Student Aid, as you know, is a performance-based organization.

Our major legislative initiative is the No Child Left Behind Act, the principles of which are embraced in The Department's 2002-2007 strategic plan, and our annual plan. The 2004 annual plan I believe was released about 3 weeks ago. Now these plans also address the principles of the President's Management Agenda, with its five government-wide initiatives of strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improved financial performance, expanded E-government, and budget and performance integration.

The six goals of our strategic plan are: Goal One, create a culture of achievement. We plan to link funding to accountability for results, increase flexibility and local controls, increase options for parents, and promote scientifically-based instruction methods.

Goal Two is to improve student achievement. We want to ensure that all students read on grade level by the third grade and improve math and science achievement for all students. Goal Three is to develop safe schools and strong character. We want to ensure that our nation's schools are safe and drug-free and the students are free of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Goal Four is to transform education to an evidence-based field, to raise the quality of research funded or conducted by The Department.

Goal Five is to enhance the quality of and access to post-secondary and adult education. We want to reduce the gaps in college access and completion among student populations differing by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability, while increasing the educational attainment of all students. We also want to strengthen historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities.

Goal Six is to establish management excellence throughout The Department of Education. We want to develop and maintain financial integrity and management and internal controls, and modernize the student financial assistance program and reduce their high-risk status. And Goal Six obviously, I believe, is where most of the initiatives in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer would reside.

Ms. Cammer: Jack, can you tell us what your office does, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer?

Mr. Martin: The CFO serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary on all matters related to financial management, financial control and accounting, cooperative agreements, procurement and discretionary grant policy. It consists of five operating components and an executive office. The executive office performs such administrative functions as budgeting, personnel, and activities such as those.

The first operating component, contracts and purchasing, we call CPO, is our purchasing shop. CPO is responsible for the solicitation, award, administration, and close-out of all contracts and other acquisition instruments for the Department, including the 10 regional offices.

Financial improvement and post-audit operations: This component provides leadership and direction in the areas of management controls, financial management training, post-audit activities, debt collection, indirect cost determination, and performance measures. FIPAO, as we call it, also serves as the debt collection officer for The Department of Education.

Financial management operations, or FMO: This is the Department's accounting shop, and it's responsible for financial statement preparation and the annual audit, reconciliations, and all related activities supporting the accurate and timely financial reporting requirements of the Department.

FSO, financial systems operations: This component supports FMO and the Department's program offices. FSO is responsible for systems operations, maintenance, hardware and software development, training, customer service, all user support, establishing financial systems policies and procedures, and ensuring financial systems function in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. FSO obviously would work very closely with the Department's Chief Information Office.

Grants policy and oversight staff: This component is responsible for reporting to the Secretary that all grants are being awarded in a timely manner. ED awards thousands of discretionary continuations and formula grants, and GPOS is the unit at ED that is responsible for ensuring that these go out on a timely basis. We set benchmarks for the months in which we want to award these grants. GPOS is responsible also for policy development, oversight, research and analysis, innovation, and improvement of the Department's discretionary grant process.

Ms. Cammer: So your office has a broad set of responsibilities. Tell us about the number of people it takes to carry those out and what skills they have.

Mr. Martin: To implement the Department's objective, and particularly Goal Six of the strategic plan, OCFO has 284 employees with a range of skills. We have accountants obviously, financial analysts, information technology specialists, contract procurement specialists, and management program analysts. And these employees, career employees, are supported by probably 60 to 100 consultants at any point in time.

Ms. Cammer: And tell us about what your roles and responsibilities are within the office.

Mr. Martin: I related to that earlier, but essentially I manage the various functions or work with the Deputy Secretary and the Secretary in fulfilling their requirements, sometimes am given special assignments, do some speech-making, try to talk as much as I can about the No Child Left Behind Act, since that is the central focus of the President and the Department.

Ms. Cammer: Can you tell us about your experience before coming to the Department and maybe how that set you up for this position?

Mr. Martin: Prior to my current position, for over 30 years, I served in a variety of management and consulting positions that I believe gave me a pretty good foundation for the work I'm doing at the Department of Education. I commenced my career at General Motors Corporation in Detroit, at the Cadillac Motor Car Division and the Financial Administration Management Development Program. I was there for about 4 years, left there and joined Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis.

I served at Control Data in a variety of management positions: manager of accounting, manager of product planning, division controller, and ultimately, my last assignment there was chief accounting officer and controller of Control Data's Canadian computer manufacturing and development operations. That was an interesting assignment, because there, we were operating under a grant from the Canadian government called the Program for the Advancement of Industrial Technology to design and build Canada's first computer mainframe, so you understand how many years ago that was. And that, we did. We built that mainframe, something called a PL-30 back then as I recall.

Following Control Data, I moved back to Michigan and joined Touche Ross, which is now Deloitte & Touche, and their consulting staff. And although we were working I think probably 80 hours a week, I managed to find the time to pick up my CPA certificate there. I stayed there about 4 years and then formed Jack Martin & Company, which is still in existence, under a different name now because of my appointment.

Mr. Lawrence: How would you contrast as you look back at your career and think about the different sectors, the private sector versus the public sector, the different management styles or approaches?

Mr. Martin: I think that there's a common misconception in the private sector that government employees don't work very hard. I think this is not true. I would compare many of my career government colleagues very favorably to the very best private sector employees and managers I've observed and had the opportunity to work with and supervise over the years.

I think in terms of management practices, I believe the federal government in many respects is far ahead of many corporations, particularly with this Administration and President Bush's Management Agenda. I think in the financial management area, I see a favorable evolving culture that is resulting in better financial management and more accurate financial reporting.

Mr. Lawrence: You just described a rich and very successful career, your own firm. What drew you back to public service?

Mr. Martin: Well, I think if you -- well, if you look at my bio you can see that I probably at any point in time served on 10 or 11 boards, so much of my time in the last 15 years has been in public service, primarily on hospital boards, but also on boards such as the Alzheimer's Association. I currently serve as chairman of the Michigan Advisory -- State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, so I've always been engaged in public service.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. We've got to go to a break. Come back with us in a few minutes as we continue our conversation with Jack Martin of the Department of Education.

Do you know what a clean audit opinion is and why it matters? We'll ask Jack to tell us all about this when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Jack Martin. Jack's the chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Education.

And joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Well, Jack, one of the biggest pieces of news at the Department these days, the Department's first clean opinion in many years, and only the second in some time. What was the cause of the accounting problems?

Mr. Martin: Well, previously, I think the Department had very serious internal control and accounting issues, as highlighted by Congress, the GAO, and the Inspector General. ED did not have an automated financial management system that could easily produce monthly and quarterly financial statements, and the Department had numerous account reconciliation deficiencies. The Secretary promised Congress that he would address these issues, and I'm proud to say that the Department has kept the Secretary's promise. We received our clean opinion earlier than I think most of the most optimistic expectations of folks around this town.

Mr. Lawrence: Just for the non-auditors in the group, what's a clean opinion?

Mr. Martin: A clean opinion basically says that the balance sheet, the statements are fairly presented. It doesn't mean that they're perfect, just that the numbers are fairly presented. We can go from there to a qualified opinion, a disclaimer, or an adverse opinion. But the balances, and in ED's case, both budgetary and proprietary accounts, have to be fairly stated and the internal control issues have to be -- there can't be material internal control deficiencies.

Mr. Lawrence: It's a pretty important proxy for a department's ability to manage or an organization's ability to manage their money. So when people talk about getting a clean opinion versus not getting a clean opinion, how is it supposed to be perceived?

Mr. Martin: I think that, and I've said this at the Department, we could be green on the scorecard across the board, but if we were rated that way across the board and didn't have a clean opinion, it would not be the same. It would be -- we would still be considered an entity that was not properly managed fiscally. So I think the clean opinion gives the Department a stamp of approval for most of its administrative and financial operations.

Ms. Cammer: You mentioned that Congress and GAO had cited numerous problems and your auditors cited numerous problems with the financial accounting in the Department. What finally prompted you to make the management improvements?

Mr. Martin: I think the improvements were a response to the President's Management Agenda and the Secretary's commitment to management excellence. The President's Management Agenda calls for financial management accountability within the agencies. The Secretary made a commitment to Congress that the Department's accounting would stand up under independent scrutiny within one year.

The improvements were made because we went back to basics. Those basics included regularly closing the books, performing analytical reviews, stepping up account reconciliations, focusing on improving internal controls and business process reengineering. In addition, the CFO recognized the need to consolidate its accounting infrastructure. Therefore, the Department's accounting officer, the head of FMO, was empowered to review all accounting policy changes and to coordinate the annual audit.

Ms. Cammer: You know, we've heard a lot about the management improvement team within the Department. Can you tell us what it is and what recommendations they've made in terms of financial management?

Mr. Martin: The management improvement team was an idea of Secretary Paige, and it's a group of career senior managers that were charged with identifying weaknesses and making recommendations for establishing accountability for results and performance-based management. They produced a roadmap to improvement, the Blueprint for Management Excellence, and completed 85 percent of the original action items in the Blueprint, with the remainder in the process of being implemented.

They also implemented 80 percent of the management improvement recommendations made by the General Accounting Office and the OIG and the financial statement auditors. The Department is currently in the process of ensuring the remaining 20 percent are completed in a timely and efficient manner.

Now there were more than 200 MIT improvement recommendations in the Secretary's Blueprint for Management Excellence. I believe our last report, there was 226. Samples of some of these actions are I think the very first action, number one in the Blueprint, was implement Oracle Federal Financials. Number two was prepare quarterly financial statements with analysis, and make accounting adjustments within 60 days. Number three was perform feeder system reconciliations to the general ledger within 45 days of the end of each calendar month, and this action primarily dealt with the data coming over from our federal student aid PBO. Number four was to develop a project plan to upgrade Oracle Federal Financials to version 11.I. I think in number eight was submit the audited FY 2002 financial statements for the Department to OMB in a timely manner. So this gives you the flavor of some of the items that we had in the Secretary's Blueprint for Management Excellence.

Ms. Cammer: Several of the things you mentioned were around a new accounting system. Can you talk about how that's helped the Department and its financial management?

Mr. Martin: Tremendously. It's been a great help to the Department and a great help, the implementation of Oracle, with respect to our receiving a clean opinion. It allows the Department to prepare monthly and quarterly statements in a timely manner by essentially pushing a button so that there are not manual work-arounds and a great deal of human intervention. It permits us to reconcile our accounts monthly and analyze these accounts monthly. It permits us to provide better financial reports to the Department's officers and managers.

Ms. Cammer: Now like a number of federal agencies, Education had a number of old legacy systems. Can you talk about the challenges in retiring those systems and how you've incorporated the new systems?

Mr. Martin: Well, it's been extremely difficult, because not only are we retiring the system, we're retiring the process in the business culture. It is a changing of the business processes that have major impact on an organization. I think we still have years of change management work remaining. The systems part we believe at Education is relatively easy. That's what our FSO director states.

It's changing the culture that is the difficult part. And I think we witnessed that when we implemented our travel management system that when the system first went live, there were no end of complaints, barrages of complaints daily. Once everybody worked and we completed our training, I think now most people in our department are very happy with the travel system.

Ms. Cammer: Now I know a lot of the processes that changed around the new system had to do with reporting and reconciliation. You mentioned that. Can you talk at all about how those capabilities have changed and improved in the last year?

Mr. Martin: Early after our '01 audit, probably back in January of '02, we reviewed the recommendations of our auditors after they completed the audit work. We then established several reconciliation teams by account groups that met at least once weekly with very active senior management participation. We prepared comprehensive reconciliation plans for every major account, so we had a situation where both myself, Mark Carney, the Deputy Director, Terry Bowie, the head of FMO, we were all at those meetings along with the accountants and analysts that were responsible for performing the reconciliations and preparing the plans. We had assistance from consultants in these activities, but it was a very intense effort, and I think it paid off with our clean opinion.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me take you back to your previous answer about the new systems and working through the new processes. Many are uncomfortable going to a system and then changing to accommodate for that system. They feel they lose control and are driven by the system, and yet you talked about doing that and having a somewhat positive experience. I'm wondering, from your perspective, what were the lessons learned for sort of getting over that hurdle?

Mr. Martin: I think a big part is training, obviously. And I think it's necessary to continually communicate with the managers and the career staff and others in the Department just what we're trying to accomplish. And I think it requires support from senior management, from the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and the senior officers on down.

Mr. Lawrence: Is there a rule of thumb about how long it takes to sort of get people comfortable with change? It sort of doesn't happen overnight. How long does it take?

Mr. Martin: My experience, and I've been around for a long time, I think it's a function of probably, in my view, of how well management works the problems. We had intense training programs at Education. We were very responsive to employee concerns. We tried to address them proactively, and I think it paid off.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things I've noticed about the Department is it's sort of in a unique position. It has one of the largest budgets in terms of dollars as a Cabinet agency, but yet it is one of the smallest, I guess, in terms of number of people. And I'm curious about, you know, what challenges does that present?

Mr. Martin: Well, first, I think we -- and this was sort of a revelation to me last year or so since I've been there, that I think we have the third-largest budget with respect to discretionary funds in the federal government. I think the only Cabinet-level agencies, or agencies, period, that have budgets higher than ours, discretionary budgets, are Defense and HHS. And if you look at that, considering we have only 4,700 employees, that's even more remarkable.

I think the Department's 2003 discretionary budget of $53.1 billion reflects the importance to President Bush of closing the education achievement gap. I think our challenge at the Department is to successfully implement all the goals of the strategic plan. I think our budget of $53.1 billion had the largest increase of any domestic federal agency.

Mr. Lawrence: Good stopping point. We've got to go to a break. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue talking about management with Jack Martin of The Department of Education.

How is Education doing with the issues called out in the President's Management Agenda? We'll ask Jack when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Jack Martin. Jack's the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Education.

And joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Ms. Cammer: Jack, let's spend some time talking about the Department's management initiatives. Could you tell us more about the Department's response to the President's Management Agenda?

Mr. Martin: In response to the PMA, we have developed and implemented One-ED to -- what we call One-ED at the Department of Education to help us find the best ways of performing our major business processes, from strategic management of human capital and competitive sourcing to improving financial performance and integrating budget and performance. On our last OMB Scorecard, we were green on progress for all five of the government-wide agenda items and the two program-specific items applicable to the Department of Education. And these two are community- and faith-based initiatives and elimination of fraud and error in student aid programs.

On status, we had two yellows in the last cycle and hope to improve on this for the new cycle. We've made good progress in resolving our PMA issues related to financial performance, and I think this is reflected in the scorecard ratings that have continuously improved during the last year.

Ms. Cammer: The Department's really accomplished something with the implementation of the financial system and getting a clean opinion in the same year. I think it's the first agency to actually do that. Have OMB and GAO recognized you for that?

Mr. Martin: I think they have. We will see when the next scorecard comes out. No, they've applauded the effort. I think it was something that the successful implementation of Oracle was something that we had to do to achieve a clean opinion. There were a few minor hiccups after our go-live date, January 22, 2002, but I think those hiccups were minor compared to what I've seen with other major system implementations, and compared with what the Department of Education experienced in the last 5 years trying to implement new systems.

Ms. Cammer: What do you think you could attribute that success to?

Mr. Martin: I think it was that we had a strong team of career employees, we had good support from our consultants, and I think it came together. And I think there was the knowledge that I was expecting that we would be successful, the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and being successful was a must for us to reach the clean opinion, which was a common goal.

E-Grants and e-Travel have a major impact on financial management, as you know. We are fully engaged in e-Grants, having detailed staff to the Department of Health and Human Services. We plan to be ready in October for the implementation of phase one of the government-wide initiative, which is a find-and-apply website.

I think additionally, and I'm very proud of this, the Department grants administration and payment system currently provides e-Application, e-Reader, and e-Payment functionalities that have been used for many of our awards. So actually, what's being studied in some departments, we are actually using and have implemented at the Department of Education through GAPS. We also have available through GAPS e-Reports and e-Administration functionalities that have also been used by some of our programs at the Department.

Last year, we implemented a full-blown electronic travel management system. While we're enjoying the benefits of this system, we anticipate becoming fully involved with the government-wide initiative. And I think this travel system, as I may have said earlier, is a good example of the need for culture change. Early on, we were getting many, many complaints from our employees and managers about the system, and we responded through training and other initiatives and we don't hear any complaints now.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the lessons learned in terms of sticking in the e-Grants systems, for example, you said others have not been able to do this, but yet ED has.

Mr. Martin: Well, I don't know what the structure of the grant programs are at other departments. I think at Education, practically all of our discretionary money goes out through grants. And to manage that from application to payment was just a must of doing business. And I think we've had, since I've been at the Department during this Administration, we've had great support from our program offices and great support from our financial systems.

Ms. Cammer: Can you tell us about EDCAPS, or the Education Central Automated Process System, and how it's improved delivery of The Department's programs?

Mr. Martin: Well, EDCAPS is a financial management platform containing applications, such as a contracts and purchasing system, what we call CPSS; the accounting system, I've mentioned Oracle; and end-to-end grants management system, GAPS that we just discussed; and a fully automated travel management system. I think the most significant thing about this platform is that all applications are fully integrated, all sit on top of one database. The platform increases data integrity and reduces data redundancy across the Department's financial management processes. And I believe the Department may be the only agency in town, we believe, that has taken financial management integration to this level: to have all financial management applications fully integrated in this manner.

Ms. Cammer: Listening to you talk about having integrated financial management makes me think about all of the different programs that it cuts across and how there are probably a lot of different challenges from a management perspective in coordinating that. Could you talk a bit about how you manage those diverse pieces within the organization?

Mr. Martin: I think what we have in our financial systems operation is a team of very talented people, and again, I'll say supported by some talented consultants, that are able to be totally responsible to user needs and that put satisfying our customers first.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things that's been interesting is that ED has been on GAO's high-risk series since its creation. Could you tell us about ED's plans for getting off the high-risk series?

Mr. Martin: What we believe was our last major hurdle to getting off this high-risk list, demonstrating that relevant, reliable, and timely financial information is available in the FSA programs, was achieved in January, with our receiving a clean opinion on our FY 2002 financial statement audit. I think, unfortunately for us, timing was such that that significant achievement occurred after GAO's most recent assessment, which was also released in January. We'll be requesting that GAO reconsider its latest designation based on our receiving a clean opinion, and continuing to have management focus and commitment to ensure continued improvement in our financial processes and procedures.

Ms. Cammer: Jack, can you talk about FSA and how you manage the financial information across as a PBO in a department? There's some, you know, diverse needs that --

Mr. Martin: I think what we do now that wasn't done before is that the PBO and the other units of Education work very closely together. The CFO of the Department's PBO attends all of the CFO meetings. I and managers from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer are working continuously with the members of the financial team at the PBO. So I think unlike how I believe it worked before, we essentially work as one unit now.

For a time, probably from June through September of 2002, the chief financial officer and the accounting functions at the PBO, FSA, did report directly to me. Right now, it's more of a dotted line and working together. But I think the communications, the fact that we all recognized that we needed to get that clean opinion, both FSA and the Department as a whole, we all realized the need to do that and the result of that was a clean opinion.

Mr. Lawrence: A good stopping point. Come back after our as we continue our discussion on management with Jack Martin of The Department of Education.

What does the future hold for Education? We'll ask Jack for his thoughts when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Jack Martin. Jack's the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Education.

And joining us in our conversation is Debra Cammer.

Well, Jack, I'm curious, I noticed that the CFO position at the Department had been vacant for a while. So I'm just curious how important is it to have a CFO?

Mr. Martin: I think given the fact that a significant portion of ED's budget and financial responsibilities reside with our performance-based organization, FSA, it was very important that a senior officer be appointed to have the clout to work with the PBO and other department offices to achieve the goals set by the President and Secretary. I think without a CFO, you didn't have a person there that could bring all of the disparate interests together toward the common focus of the clean opinion and the implementation of Oracle and the other things that we've accomplished in the last 18 months. So I think you can have individuals acting, but I don't think they command the attention that person that's been confirmed and is firmly in place would command.

Ms. Cammer: You've really focused on leveraging technology within the Department and to improve financial management. Can you talk about how it's changed the way you've done business?

Mr. Martin: I think technology has played a major role in improving the way the Department does its business. For example, the Department uses an electronic payment system for all its grants. I think we're ahead of most other Cabinet agencies in this regard. Also, the Department installed a new financial management system, Oracle, which has improved our capacity for management and external reporting. Further, the Department used an automated tool to reconcile its cash activity, which has been recognized as a best practice. So I think all of these coming together has put us in a position where we can look forward to, I think, many years of strong financial management.

Mr. Lawrence: You told us about how the users got more comfortable with the systems as they got more training. But how about how the employees dealt with the new technology in terms of requiring new skills and new learning on their part in terms of their job?

Mr. Martin: I think that what we have had on many occasions is online training for IT security, for travel, for any areas that we think apply either to the managed group or to employees. Across the Department, we have gone to mandatory training, where we track who's completed the training and who has not.

Ms. Cammer: You know, I'm curious, Jack, there are still a number of federal agencies that are struggling with legacy financial management systems. And what advice would you have for CFOs in other departments to get approval for purchasing a new financial management system or getting it implemented? What guidance or lessons learned do you have?

Mr. Martin: Well, I think at Education, as you may know, we had two system disasters before we finally successfully implemented Oracle. And I think that for those agencies, departments that haven't gone through what we've experienced, I think it would be useful for them to talk to us or talk to other departments that have had successful implementations. I think we have at least one working group for Oracle that meets regularly and tells stories about best practices and what one needs to do to have a successful implementation.

Ms. Cammer: What are the next challenges that are on the horizon for the Department?

Mr. Martin: I think getting FSA off the GAO high-risk list is a major challenge that we're all rallying to accomplish; consolidating the FSA and department core accounting systems, we'll be looking at 11.I in terms of doing that; completing a data standardization project, which will give us performance data to see how well our programs are working and moving to green on the OMB status scorecard. Our program data typically lags significantly the time that we need to report than the performance and accountability reports, so that's a major challenge that we have to address and is being addressed.

Ms. Cammer: And do you have working groups focused on those as well?

Mr. Martin: Yes.

Ms. Cammer: Similar to the management improvement team?

Mr. Martin: Right.

Ms. Cammer: What's your vision for ED in the next 5 to 10 years?

Mr. Martin: Well, I may be biased, but I think I can say that ED's operating environment is world-class at this point. We highly leverage technology and human capital in performing our mission. As we support our program offices and their implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and the other programs, VocEd and the others, I hope we achieve the goals outlined in our strategic plan and the President's commitment to close the achievement gap for all students in this country.

Mr. Lawrence: You've had a very interesting career, and now you're in the public sector. I'm curious, what advice would you give to a person perhaps starting a career and interested in the public sector?

Mr. Martin: Well, I would say, you know, as I have done, I think it's important that one be committed to public service. I think all professionals should devote a part of their career to helping others in the community who are less fortunate. I firmly believe that I've done it and practiced it for over 25 years. I think that's important. It's important to me when I look at managers.

Mr. Lawrence: Do you think it's important also -- or your experience has been to move across the sectors. Do you think that's part of a person's experience, too?

Mr. Martin: I think it's useful to me. You know, when I left the practice of consulting, accounting, it was kind of like a respite to come into my last appointment at the Department of Health and Human Services, to come into the government and just do something different. And I think even in my present job as CFO at Education, I think this is something I never -- being a chief financial officer, worrying about financial statements and the like, is something I never thought I would be doing 3 or 4 years ago. I thought that was long past. I hadn't been in a job like this in probably 18 years. So it's refreshing and it's good to learn and understand best practices.

I think one detriment to being a small-business person is that you really don't get as involved with state-of-the-art technology and all of the things that you experience in a major corporation. And from that standpoint, I was happy to do this, even at this stage of my career. You're never too old to learn and experience new things.

Mr. Lawrence: How does your previous experience at HHS help you in this job?

Mr. Martin: That experience at HHS was totally unrelated to this experience. At HHS, I was the chairman of -- they called it a quasi-judicial board, so I was essentially an administrative law judge. And that was interesting because I had a staff of I think about 60 lawyers and accountants, a 5-member board; I was the chairman. I had my own building. And so the only time I had to talk to anybody at the Department was if I had an issue. So basically, their main interest was my reducing our caseload, which I think when I arrived was about 10,000 cases going back 10 years or so. And I think we got it down to six or seven while I was there, so.

Ms. Cammer: What skills do you think a young person would need coming into the federal government? What kind of training should they have?

Mr. Martin: I think for the financial management area, obviously, very good computer skills. As a CPA, I think I would say it's great to have some private sector experience if you can do that, some experience in auditing. I think it makes one a better professional if you can have a range of experiences under your belt before you start progressing into various levels of management. And I always say about General Motors was, you know, I was there 4 years, it was a great place to learn how to do things right. And also, to this day, I appreciate that experience.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Jack, I'm afraid we're out of time. Debra and I want to thank you for joining us this morning.

Mr. Martin: Thank you for having me.

Mr. Lawrence: And if people are interested how might they get more information about -

Mr. Martin: Go to our website,, and you can receive information our grants, our strategic plan, the Secretary's Blueprint for Management Excellence, and all the other great things we're doing at Education.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Jack. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Jack Martin, chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Education.

Be sure to visit us on the web at There, you can learn more about our programs and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can also get a transcript of today's conversation. Again, that's

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Jack Martin interview
Jack Martin

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