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GFEBS: Advancing Sustainers’ Capabilities

The General Fund Enterprise Business System is providing a new foundation for how the Army manages and accounts for its money. Financial managers as well as logisticians need to know how GFEBS works and how it will benefit them.

If you haven’t heard by now, the Army is in the midst of deploying a new, revolutionary financial
system called the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). Just how big is it? In the next 2 years, over 79,000 end-users at more than 200 Army financial centers around the world will transition from legacy systems to the more advanced GFEBS.

Proc­essing over a million transactions a day and managing approximately $140 billion in spending by the Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve, GFEBS will be one of the world’s largest enterprise financial systems. The most appealing characteristic of GFEBS is that it is not just for financial management professionals. Many other users, such as supply and property book managers, engineers and public works personnel, real property managers, and leaders at all levels will use or have an interest in GFEBS.

GFEBS is a web-based, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that uses a commercial-off-the-shelf system that allows users to share financial, asset, real property, and accounting data across the Army. Users involved in any of those functions need to pay attention to GFEBS developments because this powerful system will undoubtedly affect many of the Army’s current processes. That, in turn, will drive entirely new training programs to ensure that GFEBS is successfully deployed and sustained.

What Value Does GFEBS Add?

According to Colonel Simon Holzman, the GFEBS Program Manager, the objectives of GFEBS are to “improve performance, standardize business processes, ensure a modern capability exists to meet future needs, and provide the Army’s decisionmakers with relevant, reliable, and timely information.” The value of providing reliable and timely data cannot be over­stated and is perhaps the most significant driving force behind the massive transition to GFEBS. GFEBS will allow the Army to generate a complete, auditable financial statement that meets the congressional mandate spelled out in the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996. The increase in financial transparency provided by GFEBS will improve the Army’s credibility and assuredly lead to better relations with its congressional purse holders.

GFEBS has tremendous potential to benefit financial managers, asset managers, accountants, logisticians, and commanders because it offers new and im­proved capabilities to support the modular, joint, and expeditionary Army. As an ERP tool, GFEBS is ca­pable of sharing common data across multiple agencies and activities. Currently, the Army has more than 100 financial, real property, asset, and accounting management systems; this results in a host of integration challenges. GFEBS integrates over 80 percent of these systems, creating a single, authoritative source for financial and related nonfinancial data for the Army’s entire General Fund. Imagine how much more effi­cient the Army would be if all users had access to the same master data. By using GFEBS, financial management and non-financial-management professionals will be able to devote more time to analyses and less time to processing transactions.

From an end-user perspective, GFEBS significantly decreases the number of manual reconciliations currently being performed; improves the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process through the use of integrated output data; eliminates cycle times and system customizations; standardizes business processes and input of transactions across the Army to support cost management activities; and provides accurate, reliable, and real-time data. Army financial management professionals also benefit through improved cost management and cost control, increased time to perform financial analyses, and more accurate measurement of the value and location of Government property.

GFEBS Sustainment Training

As the Army continues the unprecedented conversion from its many archaic and sometimes unwieldy automation systems to the superior ERP system that GFEBS provides, the Army Soldier Support Institute’s Financial Management School is leaning forward to ensure that sustainment training is available when GFEBS reaches full operational capability (currently scheduled for 1 January 2012).

Understanding the need to have a well-trained and educated GFEBS workforce, the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) approved the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller’s request to designate the Financial Management School as the proponent for GFEBS sustainment training. With this designation, the Financial Management School is responsible not only for delineating GFEBS training requirements for financial management processes but also for developing training products for non-financial-management GFEBS users. Through diligent coordination efforts with external agencies, the Financial Management School is developing a GFEBS training strategy that will offer a full complement of training opportunities to satisfy the needs of all GFEBS operators and stake­holders whose participation is required to ensure the system’s sustainment.

The Financial Management School is currently gathering GFEBS training products and tools in order to begin adapting them to meet TRADOC requirements. TRADOC-approved training materials will serve as the foundation for creating new Financial Management School courses related to the school’s components of GFEBS and for aligning the school’s current legacy courses. The Financial Man­agement School sustainment training strategy will be flexible enough to meet the needs of all activities while providing the rigor and substance needed to ensure that students can grasp the learning objectives.

The Financial Management School will offer both computer-based and instructor-led training. GFEBS students will be able to train at their own computers at work or receive instructor-led training at the Financial Management School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Depending on the popularity of the courses, a mobile training team may be available to conduct GFEBS training at students’ duty stations.

Course Offerings

Updating existing legacy courses is a top priority for the Financial Management School. These courses will be the first courses adjusted to introduce the appropriate GFEBS concepts, theory, and terminology. About 82 hours of GFEBS training will be integrated into professional military education, such as advanced individual training, noncommissioned officer and officer courses, and some functional courses. The Financial Management School will ensure that leaders get quality exposure to GFEBS at the schoolhouse so they are not blindsided at their next assignments.

To cover financial management technical training, eight new GFEBS courses will be offered. These courses will provide the mechanics, or “how to” training, that students will need to address the actual working of various processes in GFEBS. Students will learn how to process transactions, generate and interpret reports, and execute their user roles effectively. Three instructor-led courses (Financials, Cost Management, and Executive Level) will be conducted at Fort Jackson in a classroom environment. Five distributed learning courses (GFEBS Essentials, Reimbursables, Funds Management, Spending Chain, and Project Systems) will be accessed from an employee’s computer at work or at home. It is these distributed learning courses that will provide new employees with the essential knowledge and skills they will need to grasp the fundamentals of the business processes in which they will be engaged. An entire suite of courseware is planned for development for non-financial management users.

A Catalyst for Instilling a Cost Culture

In a time of persistent conflict, the Army is increasingly challenged to achieve satisfactory results with fewer and fewer resources. Senior leaders are faced with the monumental task of justifying resource requests when they have only limited transparency of current expenditures, and often they must rely on estimates that can be easily questioned. We can’t begin to understand what we need if we can’t understand what we’ve executed. How much does a patrol base cost annually? How much are the annual sustainment costs for a brigade combat team in Iraq? What is the impact of expanding Logistics Civil Augmentation Program requirements?

Resource managers, logisticians, and above all, commanders and directors must be more proactive in instilling a cost culture within their agencies, activities, and units. Leaders must actively identify and manage costs, leverage every dollar expended, and practice good stewardship as a daily function. Cost control must be a routine and deliberate practice—a new way of conducting business in the Army. No longer can we “fire and forget” our resources on high-dollar requirements without conducting followup cost analysis. Data on all of our execution must be captured, logically stored, and analyzed for future decision support information. GFEBS provides the necessary transparency and the capabilities to apply cost management and cost accounting principles.

In the past, the Financial Management School routinely provided cost accounting and management education to the field. However, in September 1992, when the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to assume the accounting and cost mission for the Army, demand for those courses plummeted until they eventually faded into obscurity. The fielding of GFEBS, however, returns the responsibility for cost accounting and management to the Army. To address the educational shortfall in this vital financial management capability, the Financial Management School is introducing two new courses that aim to infuse a cost culture among junior officers and civilian career program 11 (comptroller) personnel, Principles of Cost Accounting and Management (PCAM) and Intermediate Cost Accounting and Management (ICAM).

The PCAM and ICAM courses are each 3 weeks long and are designed to focus on the principles and concepts associated with cost accounting and management. PCAM will be the introductory course and will emphasize cost accounting. ICAM will be the follow-on course and will emphasize cost management while introducing relevant case studies. PCAM and ICAM will provide financial managers the cost accounting and cost management principles and skills they need to execute essential cost management support to commanders facing a significantly resource-constrained future. These courses must be developed and implemented quickly as enduring components of financial management educational development.

The GFEBS Connection to GCSS–Army

Many astute “techies” are probably wondering how Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) works with GFEBS since logisticians execute a significant portion of the Army’s funding for acquiring supplies and equipment. For this reason, a federated approach is being designed that will allow these two powerful ERP systems, GFEBS and GCSS-Army, to coexist and operate with relative autonomy.

The plan, which still needs to be finalized, is for GCSS-Army to adopt the GFEBS financial template as the standard design while retaining the ability to apply various local solution designs in support of its unique tactical supply and repair mission. This federated approach is achievable since both of these ERP systems use SAP 6.0 as their solution platform. As of today, the federated approach includes the following—

  • Division and installation financial managers will push operation and maintenance Army (OMA) funding from GFEBS to GCSS-Army in order to support tactical units, which will then fully manage those funds using GCSS-Army.
  • GCSS-Army will be the financial system of record for tactical units when they are deployed or in garrison.
  • GCSS-Army will support full spend-chain and reimbursable processes.
  • Funds management for travel and training will not be supported within GCSS-Army and will remain in GFEBS.
  • Tactical logisticians will only be required to operate within GCSS-Army.
  • Financial reporting will be integrated across the two systems (GCSS-Army and GFEBS).

This federated approach will be tested first at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, during fiscal year 2010, when both of these revolutionary ERP systems are scheduled to be fielded there.

GFEBS Fielding Update

GFEBS is being deployed incrementally in “waves” along geographic lines using a regional focus (southeast, northeast, and so forth). Wave 1 deployment included Fort Jackson; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Benning, Georgia; Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) headquarters at Arlington, Virginia; IMCOM Southeast Region headquarters at Fort McPherson, Georgia; TRADOC headquarters at Fort Monroe, Virginia; Army Forces Command headquarters at Fort McPherson; Headquarters, Department of the Army; DFAS-Indianapolis, Indiana; and DFAS-Rome, New York.

The success of wave 1 deployment set the stage for the global implementation of GFEBS to the rest of the Army. Upon completion of wave 1, GFEBS will be well on its way to replacing the Standard Finance System (STANFINS), the most widely used standard accounting system for Army installations, and the Standard Operation and Maintenance Army Research and Development System (SOMARDS), which is currently used by the logistics and acquisition communities.

Currently, GFEBS is preparing for its next major deployment phase, wave 2, scheduled for 1 April 2010. Wave 2 fielding is summarized in the chart above.

GFEBS is now upon us, so buckle your chin straps and get your head in the GFEBS game. Wave 1 de­p­loyment is complete, while wave 2 sites are deeply entrenched with GFEBS predeployment training as they prepare for their go-live date of 1 April. Considering the amount of change involved in this long-overdue transformation, it is essential for all future GFEBS users to learn as much as possible about this powerful ERP solution. For more information on GFEBS, log onto www.gfebs.army.mil, or contact the FMS GFEBS director, Lieutenant Colonel Karl Lindquist, at
karl.lindquist@us.army.mil, or Chris Lyew-Daniels at christopher.lyewdaniels@us.army.mil.

Lieutenant Colonel Karl E. Lindquist is the General Fund Enterprise Business System director at the Army Financial Management School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He recently served as G−8 of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Fort Drum, New York. He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the division headquarters, where he managed all contingency funding for Multi-National Division-Center. He holds a B.A. degree from Virginia Tech and an M.B.A. degree through the Army Comptrollership Program at Syracuse University. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and is a Certified Defense Financial Manager.

Christopher Lyew-Daniels is a financial systems analyst assigned to the Army Financial Management School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He served on active duty for over 21 years as a financial management professional and holds an M.B.A. degree from Webster University.

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