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State-of-the-Art Federal Financial System

By Eliot J. Christian and Mary L. Griles

During 1988, the USGS provided administrative and systems-management leadership to install the Federal Financial System (FFS), an off-the-shelf standardized financial management system, throughout the Department of the Interior. The USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation were the first two bureaus scheduled for FFS implementation in October 1988.

The FFS will replace and consolidate a variety of incompatible financial management systems throughout the ten bureaus of the Department of the Interior (DOI) into one modern system. Four additional bureaus, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Fish and Wildlife Service, are scheduled for implementation in October 1989. The remaining bureaus and offices, which include the National Park Service, Minerals Management Service, Office of Surface Mining, and Office of the Secretary, are scheduled for implementation the following October. It is estimated that significant savings will accrue from this installation over the 10-year life of the system.

The FFS system operates on the newly installed Amdahl 5890 mainframe computer located at the USGS National Center in Reston. Remote terminals connected to a front-end processor allow direct data entry to the mainframe. The DOI's data communications network, GEONET, provides the telecommunications capability to link field operations with the main computer.

The FFS is a completely menudriven system; it provides state-of-the-art capability that includes data-base design and extensive reference tables, which

reduce the need for extensive hardcoded programs. Highlights of the FFS capabilities include the following: • On-line maintenance-FFS is a tabledriven system, meaning that nearly all edit and update controls reside in tables, rather than in hard computer code, and these tables are maintained on-line. • On-line processing- All FFS editing and updating can be done on-line. FFS features extensive, table-defined transaction editing; for example, it can check the validity of an account number and verify fund availability. • Single source of data entry-Information is entered one time, and all edits and updates can be done at that time. • Reporting capabilities - As a result of its on-line nature and data base design, FFS supports extensive on-line query and reporting capabilities. • Prompt payment support - FFS supports prompt payment requirements such as system-calculated due dates, discount determination, and automated interest and penalty calculation. • Remote data entry- FFS supports entry of data such as commitments, receiving reports, and error corrections. • Security-FFS allows system access to be controlled at numerous levels by function, organization, and document type. For example, security could be set up so that offices could only see the data that affect their accounts but higher levels of management could review any data within the division.

...significant savings will

accrue from this installation over the 10-year life of the system.

To administer this project, the USGS established a FIRM (Financial Information Resource Management) support team, including staff from throughout the bureau, which receives management support from the USGS Administrative Division and guidance from management offices at the Department of the Interior. The finance office of each of the bureaus implementing FFS established its own

Changing to the New System

FIRM team. Technical support services were purchased from the American Management System, Inc. (AMS), to enhance the software and provide technical support to meet identified special requirements. AMS was awarded the contract for software and technical support.

The efforts of the people working on this project throughout fiscal year 1988 focused on acceptance testing, training, and preparing for the changeover to the new system.

Acceptance Testing

During fiscal year 1988, the FFS software was installed and tested to determine how well the new system performed basic accounting functions and to identify changes to the software that might be needed. The FIRM teams tested the software by entering on-line and batch transactions, testing production or volume performance, making online inquiries, and performing simulations of nightly, monthly, and annual processing operations. USGS accountants, managers, and system users spent many hours defining values for the many usermaintained reference tables found in FFS. The table-driven processing of FFS allows the user to process transactions with a minimum number of keystrokes. The rules that FFS uses when processing transactions were chosen by each bureau to reflect the accounting policy of its own agency.

Tasks required to change over to the new system included converting existing procedures, programs, and files to the new system; performing manual and automated conversion of programs and files; and verifying the conversion results. Systems currently in use at the bureaus, such as the payroll system, that must be linked with FFS were identified. Existing programs that linked systems were modified, and new programs were written and tested to verify that the two systems could still share information. The FFS data base and reference tables were loaded and reviewed to verify that table data were correct. Reporting requirements were compared with available FFS reports, needs for additional reports were identified, and new reports were created. System operations related to daily, weekly, and annual job cycles were proposed, and routines to back up and restore the data base were developed and tested. Security for the system was developed to protect data from unauthorized use.

In addition to implementing the system in the next group of bureaus, the FIRM team in each bureau will share the responsibility for maintaining the production system. These duties will include operating a hotline for assistance, resolving hardware and software problems, conducting ongoing training, coordinating system changes, and monitoring new system-development activities.



Specific bureau training requirements were identified, along with target audiences, training locations, and facilities, and a training schedule was established. The training curriculum and materials were modified and enhanced to reflect specific needs of the bureaus involved. The training included instruction on system functions, transaction processing, data entry, and inquiry, as well as the more technical aspects of system operations and system maintenance. Training sessions were held in Reston, Va., Denver, Colo., and Menlo Park, Calif.


By Lavera Hamidi

The U.S. Geological Survey has assumed more responsibility for facilities management by accepting delegated General Service Administration (GSA) building operations and lease management functions. Over the years, the USGS has worked successfully with GSA to acquire office and special-purpose space to support our scientific programs nationwide; more than 90 percent of the space currently occupied by USGS is GSAprovided. The nature of USGS earth science programs requires laboratory, computer, and other specialized facilities that benefit from the closer bureau management and supervision allowed by the GSA delegations of responsibility.


With the start-up of FFS, the Department of the Interior has taken an important step toward its goals of improving the efficiency of financial management operations, reducing the number of accounting systems, standardizing the processing of accounting data and payments, and reducing the cost of financial management operations within the Department. In order to take these goals one step further, the USGS was also designated by the Department of the Interior as an Administrative Service Center (ASC) to provide automated data processing services to all bureaus of the DOI and, as negotiated, to other Federal agencies. A second ASC was established at the Bureau of Reclamation in Denver, which will handle the new payroll and personnel system and FFS processing for Denver-based Interior bureaus. Efforts are also underway to encompass budgeling, procurement, and property management within the FFS.

The USGS ASC will focus on centralized systems and data-base design services for administrative applications, tailored to serve a community of users with local administrative staff. The Information Systems Division in Reston will provide the mainframe computer and telecommunications services necessary to process the supported administrative systems.

The USGS comes to the task of hosting an ASC with a proven track record of success in the data-processing arena and in large-scale IBM-compatible data processing. The USGS has provided services nationwide for a wide variety of program functions, both within the USGS and in other Federal and State agencies. In addition to the FFS efforts, the USGS initiated and continues to manage the highly successful Department-wide telecommunications network known as GEONET. The USGS also developed a very successful “paperless” system for processing personnel actions that is now being recognized governmentwide. Based on these experiences, the USGS is poised to provide improved administrative ADP services to the Department of the Interior, and potentially to other Federal agencies as well.

In 1981, GSA initiated a pilot program to test the feasibility of delegating building operations authority to its tenant agencies. GSA was interested in testing its premise that tenant agencies could operate their buildings more responsively than and as economically as GSA. Several major agencies agreed to participate, and by 1985 the program had expanded to a total of 10 agencies and 24 buildings in the Washington, D.C., area. Each delegation was slightly different, depending on the individual circumstances and the negotiations that took place. On the basis of the program's success, the Office of Management and Budget in 1985 directed GSA to expand and accelerate the program to encompass all Federal agencies in single-tenant buildings nationwide, setting a target date of September 30, 1986, for accomplishment. The USGS took an active role in the new program to delegate buildings operations and maintenance.

Operations and Maintenance

In August 1987, GSA delegated building operations and maintenance responsibilities for Reston, Va., where the USGS is the sole tenant in Governmentowned space. These responsibilities include day-to-day facility support necessary for physical maintenance of the buildings, such as cleaning, mechanical operation, preventive maintenance, energy management, repairs and alterations, monitoring of concessions, contracting, space assignment and lease management, and guard service. The USGS was required to establish a cleaning and grounds maintenance program, a preventive maintenance program for all building operating equipment, and an energy management and conservation plan. GSA transferred funds, manpower, and support contracts for these facilities, in addition to responsibility for payment of all utilities and fuel bills.


Currently, the USGS manages the operation and maintenance of the John Wesley Powell Federal Building in Reston, with a budget of about $5 million; this headquarters facility has over 1 million gross square feet and houses some 2,400 employees. The USGS also accepted limited responsibility for operations and maintenance of smaller, leased facilities in Golden, Colo., and Flagstaff, Ariz.

The John Wesley Powell Federal Building, Reston, Va. (Photograph by Kathleen K. Gohn.)


Lease Management

The USGS has realized a number of benefits since assuming these delegations: • Improvements in building-service quality and responsiveness through streamlining of service procedures and organization. • Improved performance of service contracts through better monitoring and ability to make contract specifications more responsive to specific buildings and to USGS scientific program needs. • Savings from energy conservation at the John Wesley Powell Building in Reston, due primarily to direct control of building heating, air-conditioning, ventilation, and electrical systems and the incentive to apply savings to meet deferred maintenance needs. • More flexibility and greater control to direct funds and staff time to meet the program requirements deemed most critical and to respond more quickly to shifting program needs during the year. • Improved ability to integrate planning, requirements development, and implementation for alteration projects to meet program needs within required timeframes.

Early in fiscal year 1988, the USGS completed implementation of GSAdelegated lease management authority for more than 120 leased sites nationwide encompassing more than 2.2 million square feet of space. Lease management requires that the designated agency perform periodic inspections to ensure compliance with lease terms, establish a register to record all complaints and their resolutions, and provide written notification to the lessor of non-performance with terms of the lease. These documents must be maintained in an on-site lease enforcement file. In addition, responsibilities now performed by USGS employees, formally designated as GSA contracting officer representatives, include managing the lease, verifying utility bills, ordering services beyond those provided during normal working hours, and contracting for low-dollar repairs and alterations.

Future of the Program

In concert with GSA, the USGS is continuing to review further opportunities for delegation. An operations and maintenance delegation for several USGS buildings in Menlo Park, Calif., is being considered.

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