CFO praises NASA financial system

Not even an incoming storm can keep NASA's accountants from doing their job, thanks to the space agency's financial management system.

Gwendolyn Sykes, NASA's chief financial officer, woke up at 7 a.m. Sept. 23 to hear the news of a tropical storm approaching Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where employees were trying to meet their three-day deadline for closing the fiscal year's financial books. But rather than fretting about the weather, staffers simply moved to Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and carried on with their work, Sykes said.

"That's the lovely part about being on an integrated system — you can do your work anywhere," Sykes said at a briefing today. "I'll make my three-day close."

Sykes was appointed CFO in November 2003, and since then, he has directed NASA's financial management policies and procedures in an effort to improve its financial credibility and integrity. Much of that work has involved NASA's SAP Core Finance program, which was fully implemented last year.

In today's briefing, Sykes highlighted the challenges she has encountered in helping NASA implement President Bush's new vision of the U.S. space program that includes sending human explorers to Mars and building a base on the moon.

NASA officials unveiled a management overhaul this week, but an agency spokesman said the transformation does not directly affect the information technology department.

"The IT operation under [chief information officer] Patricia Dunnington had been changing for some time," NASA spokesman Brian Dunbar said earlier this week. "Pat is now taking a more active role in providing services and determining where it makes sense to centralize services.

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