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CHIPS Articles: One School You Should Attend: The Defense Financial Management and Comptroller School

One School You Should Attend: The Defense Financial Management and Comptroller School
By Diana Benoit - April-June 2008
The Department of the Navy (DON) is leading the way in preparing its military and civilian leaders to manage effectively and efficiently by providing diverse training and educational programs. Such programs are becoming more important because of the increasingly complex fiscal environment resulting from transformation, technological advances and a shrinking defense budget.

Sound fiscal responsibility and leadership are areas in which the Department of the Navy is focusing efforts to educate its workforce. The Defense Financial Management and Comptroller School (DFM&CS) can help. Long recognized as a Department of Defense (DoD) Center of Excellence for financial management, comptroller and decision support education, DFM&CS provides high quality joint operational-level continuing education to the DoD financial management community.

One of three financial management courses offered at DFM&CS, the Defense Financial Management Course (DFMC), prepares the DoD workforce to be more proactive in meeting strategic challenges through effective decision-making.

Formerly called the Professional Military Comptroller Course, the DFMC curriculum was dramatically revised three years ago to deliver the most relevant, credible financial management, comptrollership and leadership education available within DoD.

The DFMC four-week course is recommended for GS-12 and above (or equivalent) employees and military personnel. Air Force O3s selected for the Financial Management Leadership Program may attend as an exception. Additionally, attendance is authorized for personnel outside the comptroller career area that are endorsed by the major command/agency comptroller.

The course focuses on decision support which gives emphasis to communication and interpersonal skills, critical thinking, leadership skills, awareness of the diverse DoD financial management environment, conflict resolution and expeditionary warfare and contingency operations.

Decision support training is at the core of all DFM&CS courses and is defined as “enabling people to make informed decisions that optimize resources and mission effectiveness.”

At DFM&CS, the decision support concept is taught as a two-phased process providing leaders with viable alternatives, methods to assess financial and non-financial impacts, assembling a well-supported recommendation and a method for implementing the leader's direction.

Students are required to actively participate, formulate individual and group goals, and successfully complete homework and test requirements. Two tests are administered during the course. They are composed of multiple choice and essay questions related to critical thinking. The course is rigorous and taught at the graduate level.

The course emphasizes a balanced curriculum, faculty instructors lay a firm foundation of principles and practices in each functional area, reinforced by guest lecturers who discuss the application of these principles and practices on the job. Methodologies range from readings, questioning, individual practical exercises, role-playing, student-led discussions and problem solving, to instructor-guided discussions, realistic case studies, and self-paced, computer-assisted simulations.

Students are divided into seminars based upon a careful review of questionnaires they complete. Seminars are mixed by service, background, and whether a student is military or civilian. This procedure greatly enriches the learning experience of all students.

Guest speakers have included:

• Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) senior leaders;
• DoD's Business Transformation Agency leaders, including the Defense Business Systems Acquisition Executive and Director, Transformation Priorities and Requirements - Financial Management;
• Auditor Generals from the departments of the Navy, Air Force, Army and the Coast Guard;
• Comptrollers from several defense agencies;
• Comptrollers from U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command; and
• Current and past political appointees.

Opportunities provided in the course include:
• Learning how to advise senior leaders in strategic decision support roles;
• Increasing awareness of the diverse financial management framework within DoD;
• Understanding the impact of the strategic environment on the DoD mission;
• Practicing enhanced leadership and interpersonal skills;
• Comprehending contingency operations concepts and their impact on financial management; and
• Enhancing communication and leadership skills.

The DFMC evaluation processes have two broad objectives: (1) evaluation of student performance to measure achievement of behavioral objectives established by the faculty and (2) evaluation of the faculty, guest speakers, educational materials and other facets of the curriculum to determine if the course is meeting the needs of the comptroller community and the DoD.

Student achievement of behavioral objectives is measured in several ways including tests, objective evaluation of student prepared written papers, oral presentations, seminar contributions, formal problem solving exercises, use of proper quantitative techniques, and interpretation of quantitative information. For more information about the curriculum, go to

The DoD financial managers trained today need the essential skills that decision support addresses as part of their toolkit for future success. Financial managers are preferred, but other communities, such as project managers, will be accepted by exception if seats are available. Nominations are submitted through, and screened by the Department of the Navy, Director, Office of Budget, Budget Policy and Procedures Division (FMB5).

The DFM&CS is located on Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, Ala. Travel and per diem expenses for DFMC students (not in a PCS status) are centrally funded by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) (ASN (FM&C)). Visit the DFMCS Web site at for information about lodging and per diem.

For assistance, call the school at (334) 953-6656 or DSN 493-6656. For information about eligibility, phone (703)-692-4839 or DSN 222-4839.

Ms. Benoit is a DFAS employee serving as an instructor at Air University, Eaker College, DFM&CS.

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