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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bottom-line results: Snow finesses financial systems at Coast Guard

Avie Snow and her team really had to move after 9/11 when the Coast Guard was reassigned from the Transportation Department to the Homeland Security Department and had to migrate off DOT’s accounting system. In nine months, they built the Core Accounting System (CAS) for about $7 million.

The success of the project was due to her “amazing team” and “our CFO, who let me do stuff,” said Snow, chief of financial systems at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington.

The USCG chief financial officer, Robert Horowitz, said letting Snow “do stuff” was a business decision.

“I provided Ms. Snow this latitude because her proposed course of action would deliver to the Coast Guard a user-friendly and technologically advanced financial-systems solution at lowest possible cost,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with the Homeland Security Department and our development contractor that allowed Ms. Snow to pursue this initiative under constrained timelines. We have been quite pleased with her success.”

The first pieces of the integrated suite were the core accounting system, Oracle Corp.’s Oracle Federal Financials, Finance and Procurement Desktop for simplified acquisition, funds management and field accounting, followed by the Contract Information Management System for contract writing.

Rather than proprietary Web brokers or middleware to integrate applications, CAS uses open-standard Web services, which let disparate applications integrate in real time.

“Many in the technology sector still consider a services-oriented architecture and integration using Web services to be a technology vision,” said Ray Muslimani, president of Coast Guard integrator Global Computer Enterprises Inc. of Reston, Va.

Snow shrugs off the praise. “At the time, there was $10 billion invested throughout the industry in SOA,” she said. “And this is the private sector, where profit is the bottom line. I could guess things were going that way.”

The Coast Guard is realizing residual profits from the move, Snow said. The Office of Management and Budget’s introduction, post-CAS implementation, of its Federal Enterprise Architecture program calls for agencies to migrate to SOA.

“We’re already compliant, ahead of the game,” Snow said.

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