Rear Adm. Mark Fedor said he’s “confident” but “realistic” about transactions migrating smoothly from the U.S. Coast Guard’s transitional financial management system into the new DHS system already implemented at TSA.
“Maybe there was some error in the entry, and maybe the data just isn’t compatible for some reason. So there probably will be some manual entry that is required as we go live with that new system,” Fedor, the assistant commandant for resources and chief financial officer, told WFED’s Federal Drive last week, adding that USCG “built in some front-loaded support” to accomplish that if needed.
The Oracle-based Financial Systems Modernization Solution, or FSMS, has been implemented by DHS at the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office and the Transportation Security Administration, with the Coast Guard in line to be the third agency to begin using it.
Announcing the TSA transition in November 2020, DHS said the new system “brings automated and integrated controls, uses common accounting lines, standard business practices, and the most up-to-date security, moving agencies away from transaction-level processes to focus on data reporting and analytics.”
“Being on a new system will make our mission-support functions more efficient and effective, ultimately freeing up more resources for improving and supporting front-line operations,” TSA Chief Financial Officer Pat Rose said at the time, calling the transition challenging yet “groundbreaking.”
Fedor noted that the Coast Guard transition is “most complex just because of our broad range of missions associated with it.”
Coast Guard employees were told in May that FSMS — “the largest financial system transition in Coast Guard history” that “will affect everyone in the Coast Guard” — would go live on Oct. 1, with continuity in processing military, civilian, and retirement pay prioritized. Web-based FSMS training courses were announced at the time, with system testing running from July through the beginning of September.
FSMS will interface with numerous Coast Guard systems including ALMIS, NESSS, FLS, MISLE, DPOMS, MOSIS, Direct Access, AUXDATA, and ETS2, and will connect with external applications from the National Finance Center, Defense Logistics Agency, GSA, and Treasury Department.
“The 16,000 financial management, procurement, and contracting professionals will experience the greatest impact to their world of work so I acknowledge and thank them for their efforts,” Vice Commandant Charles Ray said in the May bulletin. “In any system transition, risk is always a high factor and regardless of any challenges the Coast Guard may face we will continue to conduct operations and ensure our workforce gets the resources they need for mission execution.”
The transition is supposed to be complete by Nov. 17. The legacy Core Accounting System Suite was shut off day before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, transitioning to the temporary Cutover Financial System — “a temporary repository to document all the transactions that occurred during this turnover period,” Fedor said.
“The nation’s Coast Guard needs to keep operating,” he said. “That’s what I promised the commandant of the Coast Guard and to our men and women operating out there, they need to be able to procure, contract mission-essential operational equipment so they keep operating; that’s what the nation expects of us. So even though we’re going through this big transition, and moving millions of lines of code to this new FSMS, that Financial Systems Modernization Solution, the Coast Guard needs to keep operating.”
USCG also implemented an FSMS support team to help employees navigate the transition, with the majority of user queries answered through posting questions online and others bumped up to help tickets. Most issues have been resolved via either of the methods in two days, and the Coast Guard plans to use the same support system once FSMS goes live.
“Our men and women out in the field, we all kind of speak the same language. And if they were just talking to a pure contractor who may not be that familiar with us, that interaction might not go so well,” Fedor said, describing the mix on the tech support team. “So we wanted to make sure we had Coasties that were involved in that.”
Within the cutover period, he said, people have been “really working around the clock” to help the migration of decades of legacy data by the beginning of November.
“When we turn off that legacy system, we are essentially underway in the financial world as we make this transition. So there’s work that’s going to go on, like a ship that’s just getting underway after a long period, things go wrong, you have to deal with certain issues, you got to navigate your way out of that port. That’s what we’re doing right now,” Fedor said. “But I am hopeful come 17 November, that we’ll kind of be on open ocean, essentially.”
“This new system will really enable us to be more efficient, will enable us to look at data and transactions across the entire enterprise,” he continued. “So we can really kind of look at trends, how we’re spending our money across the enterprise, and enable us to be more efficient, and really better stewards of the taxpayers dollars at the end of it. So I am optimistic as we move forward.”
Fedor noted that messaging about the FSMS transition has gone well with awareness and training moving forward.
“We’ve reached literally the deck-plate level of cutters around the Coast Guard. And they know that this system is coming,” he said. “So again, I think apprehension of this transition, some nervousness, but also excitement that we will be better off for it once we’re able to go live.”