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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Agency CFOs feel strain of impending budget cuts

Federal chief financial officers and deputy CFOs are feeling more pressure to help their agencies deal with impending budget cuts.

With the White House planning to release the fiscal 2013 budget request Feb. 13, agency CFOs and deputy CFOs said in an exclusive online survey by Federal News Radio that their top three priorities and challenges all revolve around improving how their agency manages spending. Agencies expect the 2013 request to include significant cuts in across-the-board discretionary spending.

CFOs and deputy CFOs said helping their agencies deal with budget cuts is their top priority for 2012 with an average ranking of 1.9 out of eight choices. Respondents ranked second "helping my agency use financial data to make better decisions." Reducing improper payments, solving data quality and integrity issues, and modernizing or improving their agency's general ledger financial systems rounded out their top five priorities.

CFOs and deputy CFOs also worried that their workforces are not ready to help them use data to make better decisions or to figure out how best to save money. In two related questions, a majority of respondents said their workforces needed help.

And finally, when asked to rate priorities on a scale of 1-to-5, with five being very important, workforce training received the highest average rank of 2.7, while reducing improper payments (2.8) and cutting costs (2.82) rounded out the top three.

At the same time, however, CFOs and deputy CFOs said the biggest challenge facing the financial-management community was budget reductions and too many unfunded mandates, while workforce issues ranked much lower.

While workforce training is a major concern, only 9 percent of respondents said they were likely to move their financial-management system to a shared-service provider in 2012. Just under half of the respondents, 45 percent, said they do not plan on using the Treasury Department's electronic payment processing system in 2012 either.

CFOs and deputy CFOs gave good marks to Treasury's 12-step plan to improve financial management, with 46 percent saying it's making a difference. But 37 percent said it's moving too slowly — so there seems to be agreement and also desire for improving the federal financial management process.

In fact, 55 percent said the 1990 CFO Act needs to be updated, while 18 percent said there are some parts that need to be revised.

Finally, CFOs were unsure how the Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board would affect the government. Of the respondents, 18 percent said it will improve oversight and help gain control of spending, 36 percent said it will be another bureaucratic oversight body and 46 percent said it was too early to tell if it will help or hurt.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio

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