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Sunday, September 28, 2008

An investigation’s cost

Today’s FBI is a threat-based, intelligence-driven, technologically supported agency of more than 30,000 employees working in 56 field offices in the U.S. and 61 Legal AttachĂ© offices overseas. These employees combat threats as diverse as terrorism, corporate fraud, cybercrime, human trafficking, violent crime and money laundering.

Making optimum use of the FBI’s large and geographically dispersed work force, as well as its $7 billion budget, takes on enhanced importance — and difficulty — when viewed against the backdrop of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and the resulting transformation of the FBI to an agency that fuses intelligence into its national security and law enforcement functions.

The FBI’s chief financial officer, through the Finance Division, is a key partner in achieving the FBI’s mission. While the Finance Division’s contributions can take many forms, two of the most important are providing accurate and useful financial information for decision-making and being a change agent for improved operations and efficient use of resources.

The CFO’s office has been a driving force to bring about, through the budget process, more integrated thinking and comprehensive analysis of FBI programs. As part of this effort, the FBI has adopted a multiyear budgeting cycle, enabling better business planning and the analysis of the out-year impact of current budget decisions, particularly the impact on information technology, space and other infrastructure requirements. This approach also makes the FBI planning cycle consistent with that of the U.S. intelligence community, improving its ability to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence and the other intelligence agencies.

To be fully successful, both the planning process and daily operations need timely, accurate and useful information. While not the complete answer, information derived from audited financial statements is certainly part of this equation. In recent years, the FBI has made steady progress in improving the quality of its financial statements; its fiscal 2007 statement received an “unqualified” opinion with no financial material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. This accomplishment is significant because it was achieved using an antiquated financial system scheduled for replacement.

Beyond financial statement data, the CFO’s office strives to provide information needed to plan and execute FBI responsibilities in the most effective and efficient manner. An example of such information is a current effort to determine the cost of an investigation. Costs will be calculated based on the type of investigation, size of field office and other variables. By analyzing and comparing this data, program managers at FBI headquarters and special agents in charge of field offices will be able to identify best practices, problem areas, and other insights of how to best utilize bureau resources. The CFO’s goal is to be both proactive in identifying areas where better financial data would improve decision-making, as well as to serve as a ready resource to program managers needing assistance in developing and analyzing financial data.

In addition to budget and accounting, the Finance Division is also responsible for the FBI’s acquisition function. The FBI procures nearly $3 billion of goods and services annually, much of which is for information technology and other sophisticated equipment. The structure allows for better coordination among budget, procurement and accounting personnel, thus enabling the FBI to integrate budget formulation, multiyear acquisition requirements, and accountability of its resources.

With the expansion of its size and responsibilities, the FBI is, in many ways, like a large corporation with multiple business lines. Taking a page from the private sector, the Finance Division is hiring personnel with business backgrounds to focus on business process re-engineering to realize cost savings and improved operations. Through this and its other efforts, the CFO’s office can — and must — be a key contributor to the FBI’s mission as it embarks on its next 100 years.

-Rich Haley on FederalTimes.com
Rich Haley is the FBI Finance Division assistant director and chief financial officer.

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