LINDA MORRISON COMBS
NOMINEE FOR CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
U. S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
January 24, 2002
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today as you consider my qualifications for the position of Chief Financial Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Bush for this important post, and I would like to thank Governor Whitman for her confidence in selecting me for this position.
It is a privilege to be considered once again for a position of great trust within the federal Government. Some of the most rewarding years of my career have been spent in executive positions with the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Education. I would welcome the opportunity to continue to serve the public at EPA, an agency whose staff are well-known for their personal commitment to the organization=s mission: protecting human health and the environment. This is a commitment that I share, while recognizing the special contributions that sound fiscal management can make to the business of environmental protection. In short, we must manage and account for our fiscal resources as carefully as we protect and preserve our natural resources.
The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of any organization carries a tremendous responsibility. It is a pivotal position, where planning, budgeting, accountability, and resource management all come together. In government organizations, the CFO bears additional responsibility as an executive accountable to the public. I believe my experiences at federal, state, and local government levels and within the private sector have given me the broadest possible perspective on the kinds of challenges likely to face the CFO in any large organization.
Moreover, I am quite familiar with the management issues of greatest concern to CFOs in the Executive Branch. I was fortunate to have worked closely with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget on development and passage of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. We did a great deal of work together to define financial and performance standards for federal CFOs that would be consistent with those normally applied to private sector CFOs. I believe the success of that landmark legislation is apparent in the advances made across government since my tenure as the first CFO at Treasury. If I am confirmed, it will be my goal to build upon the progress that has already been made and continue to improve management, performance, and results for EPA and for the public we serve.
In support of this goal, I would like to highlight a few of the opportunities I see ahead.
Should my appointment be confirmed, a major focus of my work at EPA would be to pursue the President=s Management Agenda, which focuses on Human Capital, E-Government, Competitive Sourcing, Financial Performance, and Budget and Performance Integration. I would apply to this work the best practices I have identified in my private and public sector management experience.
EPA=s Office of the Chief Financial Officer would have an opportunity to maintain its focus on solid, customer-oriented financial services, meeting the Agency=s financial obligations with precision and timeliness. EPA has a good track record in this area, as demonstrated by the performance measures applied to CFOs across government, and I would look forward to continuing to meet or exceed all standards.
EPA will surely continue its work in compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). A major part of that work will be the planning and consultation that will result in an updated Strategic Plan for the Agency, to be submitted to Congress in September 2003. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is EPA=s focal point for this effort. I would expect to build on the Agency=s experience of working through two strategic plans under GPRA, factoring in my own previous planning and budgeting experience as a federal management executive.
Of course budgeting and annual planning will be a large part of the office=s work, as it was in the organizations I headed at Treasury, Veterans Affairs, and Education. I look forward to leading the Agency=s budget formulation and management activities and pledge to work closely with Congress in that effort. EPA has been commended by GAO and other oversight organizations for linking its strategic plan, annual plans, and budgets, using a common framework of goals and objectives. If confirmed, I would work to maintain such links and refine the Agency=s efforts to connect costs and results.
The Agency will need to continue developing and maintaining financial systems that serve multiple customers. I am personally committed to managing and communicating accurate, meaningful information about EPA=s fiscal health and financial position. I believe Federal agency systems need to be versatile enough to produce financial statements worthy of clean audit opinions, as well as information about program costs in a form that is useful to line managers who need to make informed decisions. No less important is the need for Federal agency systems to produce information for Abig picture@ analysis of how much is spent to achieve particular results for the American people. Congressional interest in this kind of information is entirely appropriate, and duly noted. Should I be confirmed in this position, I would look forward to working with you to respond to your needs.
One principal source of information citing EPA=s accomplishments is its Annual Report, with which I am sure you are familiar. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is also the Agency=s focal point for preparing this report. EPA=s Annual Report has been recognized as one of the best in government for bringing together its audited financial statements, a comprehensive discussion of program accomplishments, and an assessment of Agency management controls. If confirmed, I would seek opportunities to communicate to the public ever more clearly how EPA employs their tax dollars, and what benefits our citizens derive from the valuable work that EPA does.
In each of the public offices in which I have served, I have been guided by one over-riding principle: public service is a public trust. I pledge to you that I am committed to upholding the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity. The people of this great country deserve no less from those of us who serve in such honored positions.
I approach the challenges that lie before me with enthusiasm, and eagerness to provide expert leadership for the EPA and for this Administration. Should you honor me with confirmation, I look forward to working with you and to the job ahead. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is staffed with some of the finest professionals anywhere. I am eager to begin our work together.
At this time, I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.