Key Federal Financial Management Terms

Below are some key Federal Financial Management Terms:

  • Authorization: Act of Congress that permits Federal programs or activities to exist and recommends funding levels.
  • Appropriation: Act of Congress to provide Federal agencies with budget authority to obligate government to future outlay of cash for a specific purposes and period of time. 
  • Commitment: An administrative reservation of funds by the financial controller or resource manager triggered by a procurement or purchase request.
  • Obligation: A legal reservation fo funds that binds government to future expenditure and outlay of cash from the Treasury triggered by the signing of a contract, travel order, credit card transaction, etc. 
  • Expenditure: Issuance of a payment disbursement by electronic funds transfer, check, etc. 
  • Outlay: Payment of cash from Treasury to vendor to liquidate a financial obligation.

 

These should be helpful in understanding the Federal

financial management processes. 

 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mars On A Dime

Extra Mile
According to the Wall Street Journal that compares with $671M that it cost NASA (which arrived just 3 days earlier than India’s) and the European Space Agency’s mission that cost $386M in 2003,



But aside from the Indian’s being able to achieve a Mars mission at a tenth the cost of what we did, BBC reported that they also did it $26M cheaper than even the cost of the science fiction movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock about the International Space Station. 



While we clearly go the extra mile and are able to do great things–why does it always cost us so much to get there?



Perhaps, you can say that we are somehow more diligent or careful in our work (i.e. putting a premium on safety) or that it’s just the higher cost of labor in this country or that we are early innovators and incur the costs of research and development that others than leverage. 



However, even though we are considered a very wealthy nation, it is fair to ask whether we are managing our wealth with discretion and an eye to the future or do we just take it for granted and are wasteful with it?



With a $3.9 trillion federal government budget (note, this is a full 21% of the entire U.S. economy/GDP), we are talking about some serious money, and we should be getting the most for it.



Unfortunately, the gravy train extends from certain “Beltway Bandit” contractors–e.g. remember the $640 toilet seats, $7,600 coffee makers, and $436 hammers uncovered by the Project on Government Oversight–and apparently all the way to mission Mars. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

10 Ways To Improve Federal Technology

10 Ways To Improve Federal Technology

While it’s good to improve government services through advances in information technology, we also need to do better with what we have, which is our own valuable IT human capital.

In the Wall Street Journal today, the “health-site woes” are spurring a push for changes to federal technology, including the possibility of a “federal unit dedicated to big tech projects.”

Whether or not we carve our a separate big tech project unit, we can do so much to improve success in all our agencies by valuing our people and motivating them to succeed.

As democracy and capitalism have taught us, we need people to be free to innovate and reward them appropriately.

While the grass may look greener in Silicon Valley, our challenge is to utilize all our resources in whatever part of the country they reside, whether they be government or private sector workers.

Ultimately, like most things, this is a human challenge, and not just a technology issue.

Hence, I developed the above comic strip to demonstrate 10 Ways to Improve Federal Technology, so we can all succeed together. 😉

(Source Cartoon [click here to enlarge]: Andy Blumenthal)

Government Shutdown – On The Street

Government Shutdown - On The Street

Day #3 of the Federal Government Shutdown.

I am reminded on the streets of D.C. that there are many others hurting and in need.

Pictured here are some hardworking folks striking against “unfair labor” practices.

They’re up early and are standing there ready, presumably willing, and able to work.

At the bottom it says, “Employer refuses to bargain in good faith.”

With news coming again this morning about continued failure in talks on the government budget (and debt ceiling not far behind), we are left wondering when good faith and compromise will bring 800,000 federal workers back to their jobs.

All these people have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and jobs to perform.

I read this morning how the Federal workers are feeling like “pawns” and “marginalized” like never before.

Perhaps, we can get more done by helping people feel a level of control, valued, and with purpose?

The world is still a big and scary place with lots of dangerous actors and challenging problems.

Rather then political polarlization and indecision, we need to stand firm by a definite set of sacred national values (while compromising on the implementation details), project the strength to defend them both domestically and abroad, and stay fair, faithful, and unwaveringly united to perform our vital role in this world.

To solve large global problems, we need to be able to show that we can manage our own house in order first. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Government Shutdown – Starbucks

Government Shutdown - Starbucks

So today is Day #2 of the Federal Government Shutdown.

This is a picture from the local Starbucks that is typically billowing at lunch time–as you can see it’s basically a morgue.

Unfortunately, hard-working Federal employees, contractors, and local business are feeling the impact!

Even from those that are still working, there is word of “survivor’s guilt”–like with a plane crash or other calamity, when those who survive the catastrophe question why they were so fortunate when the others weren’t so lucky and perished.

With both the budget shutdown and the impending debt ceiling showdown–we are facing the perfect storm, with real negotiation and compromise yet to emerge.

With this all, our significant national problems aren’t going away–to the contrary, Iran and North Korea are still global nuclear threats, Syria still has chemical weapons, the economy remains on shaky ground (in the paper today, the once high-flying pharmaceutical company Merck is planning to lay off 20%!), the national debt continues to spiral out of control (albeit at a “slower pace”), cybersecurity remains a major national security risk (although Cyber Command continues to stand up its new headquarters and firepower), and so much more.

Bubble stocks rose again yesterday after an almost 20% one-year return. Not only that, but the safety of gold took a beating again after an almost 40% one-year decline (full disclosure, I am a recent investor in the latter). One has to wonder how long it will take for sanity to prevail once again.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Government Shutdown – Rush Hour

Government Shutdown - Rush Hour

Today was Day #1 of the Federal Government Shutdown.

Pictured here is rush hour in Washington, D.C.

In terms of raising revenue to pay down our national debt, solve challenging problems facing our nation, or increase our global competitiveness–I am not sure how this gets us there.

With around 800,000 people sitting at home or in Starbucks waiting to be recalled to work, about the only good thing you can say about the furlough is that it was easy to get a seat on the Metro.

Sad, but true. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Requirements Go Awry

When Requirements Go Awry

You may have seen this before–it is a great comic strip on how requirements can go awry.

When you look at how product or service requirements look from each person’s vantage point, it is easy to see how they can be misunderstand, misinterpreted, or misrepresented.

Getting clarity of the tire swing before we start can save a lot of wasted time, effort, and money on building contraptions that no one wanted or needs.

Get the business and technical requirements spelled out in as much detail as possible from all parties; document, document, document; and have the customer approval and sign off on these.

Build to specification, on time, and within budget and make sure it meets the operational mission needs and strategic vision of the organization.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to tamingdata.com)