My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 5, 2022

FSMS: Progress report from the incident command

By PA2 Diana Sherbs

The Coast Guard is making headway toward paying our people and our bills. 

The Financial Systems Modernization Solution (FSMS) Transition Incident Command (IC) – working with CGHQ Directorates and the Coast Guard’s Finance Center (FINCEN) – now have 134 personnel surged to address transition challenges. Here's an update on progress to date.

Paying our People
The effort to pay our members breaks down into six “buckets,” each with its own challenges and solutions. 

  • PPM Payments: About 1,300 payments were backlogged due to an inability to execute tax withholding in FSMS. Initial solutions have been partially successful, and FINCEN was able to start processing PPM claims this week. More than 400 PPM claims were paid, clearing nearly 33% of the backlog but it will likely take a couple weeks to complete all payments. Rear Adm. Jon Hickey, FSMS Transition incident commander, emailed these members Wednesday, March 30, to provide them with a status update.
  • Civilian Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Payments: Approximately 80 civilians are waiting PCS payments, which have been delayed due to a similar tax withholding issue.  The fix is being tested now, and the payments should be released in the next couple weeks.
  • Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) Payments: The team has completed about 200 of 400 TLA claims and expects to clear the backlog in a couple weeks. 
  • Temporary Duty (TDY) Payments: TDY payments work for most travelers. There are some remaining challenges, however, particularly for Education and Training Quota Management Command, Reserve and Direct Access-driven orders.  The Incident Command is bringing stakeholders together to resolve issues impeding timely payments.  
  • Military PCS Payments: The system works for new PCS claims. About 2,000 members who filed PCS claims prior to the new process being established are waiting on outstanding claims and will be paid about two days after they take one additional step on their claim. The Incident Command will be reaching out to commands whose members have yet to complete this additional step. 
  • Auxiliary Payments: There are about 700 payments outstanding from fiscal 2021, and 200 from fiscal 2022.  The 700 orders from last year will be migrated into FSMS later this month, and payments will follow within a week or two.  The IC is also working on a fix to enable processing of the 200 claims from 2022. 

Paying our Vendors

The FSMS system was unable to process invoice payments for nearly three months. More than 25,000 vendor invoices accumulated during that time. Surge staff, process improvements, and automation have helped FINCEN more than double the payments going out daily. With this “all hands on deck” approach, the Incident Command expects FINCEN will eliminate the backlog of invoices by July 2022. FINCEN continues to communicate with vendors every month.

Improving the System

FSMS has technical deficiencies that need to be addressed, including the time it takes the system to perform normal actions (i.e., latency). IBM and Oracle are issuing patches to improve system performance. 

To better identify and diagnose system performance issues, the Coast Guard has started using a robust tool called Dynatrace. “We are working side-by-side with IBM and DHS to leverage this tool to conduct pinpointed user-level diagnostics,” said Hickey.

Improving the Process

“We were really efficient with the old system by creating workarounds, but those no longer work,” said Capt. Erich Klein, deputy IC. “We’re refining the business processes constantly, to make it easier for our financial staff to do their jobs.” 

Three bases – Boston, Portsmouth, and Galveston – are testing a process to expedite micro-purchases.

“If we can make it work, and be compliant with the requirements, it will really reduce the administrative burden and help with system latency,” concluded Klein. 

Additional progress includes:

  • Recapitalized 44% of scheduled FMPS computers
  • Issued fiscal 2022 budget execution guidance
  • Extended Tier 1 FSMS Help Desk Support to cover Pacific Area’s full workday. 
  • Launched an open issue tracker – “So you can see the progress we’re making and tell us, through your chain of command, what else we need to be working on,” said Rear Adm. Hickey.
  • Launched a metrics dashboard
  • 63 released job aids; 5 are in progress; 10 are in queue.

Help Us Help You

Cmdr. Tom Crowley, operations section chief with the FSMS Transition Incident Command, provided some suggestions to help making things better for everyone: 

  1. Read the FSMS Fix in full every week. “Don’t speed read, glaze over or summarize the info for your colleagues,” advised Crowley. “This is the time to read everything."
  2. Don’t press the back button, and remember that multiple clicks slow FSMS down for everybody. “Please don’t rage click,” Crowley said. “It will be better for you, and it will help everyone else.”
  3. A small team of Coast Guard members are identifying best practices, building job aids and improving business processes. If you’ve found a process that works well, please don’t keep it to yourself! E-mail your solutions to Master Chief Petty Officer Derrio Foster, the Incident Command’s technical specialist. “I’m in the field and using the system, same as you,” said Foster. “I feel your pain and want to make it better.

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