CFO-ADMIN NEWS YOU CAN
- A Monthly Newsletter from
- Office of the Chief Financial Officer
- Director of
September 18, 2009
Message from the CFO
In this issue of CFO-Admin News You Can Use we focus on
worksite wellness in the Federal government. Worksite wellness products,
services and programs are designed to empower people with the information, tools
and support they need to take charge of their health.
health management resources and tools within the Federal Government help people
address a wide spectrum of needs across the health continuum. Resources
range from broad-based health awareness and education tools to highly targeted
and personalized programs for those who have health risks, are managing chronic
conditions or and are facing important health decisions.
With the elevated
risk of contracting the H1N1 flu virus this year, it is important for all of us
to be especially diligent. I hope you find these articles to be useful.
Expanding Federal Worksite
As the country is considering healthcare reform, the
Federal government is taking a closer look at Worksite Wellness programs throughout its
agencies. Such programs
help employees take personal responsibility for their
mind/body health. Wellness programs, which include health
education and access to supportive social and physical environments, are viewed
as avenues to improve employees’ health, enhance recruitment and retention, and
ultimately reduce the rising rate of health care spending.
This summer, President Obama met with a group of
employers, including Johnson & Johnson and Pitney Bowes, who have created
exemplary workplace wellness programs.
The President has asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in
coordination with other agencies, to study effective employer wellness and
prevention programs, and to explore the possibility of developing such a plan
for civil servants.
OPM recently asked all heads of Departments and Agencies
to report on existing programs and policies that enhance health and wellness in
the workplace. OPM is providing an
on-line tool, “WellCheck,” for Agencies to provide data on services, policies,
costs and metrics (within its organization).
The Department of Commerce (DOC) is responding to the OPM inventory and
will use the results to establish wellness goals and objectives. A July 14, 2009 memo from OPM Director John
Berry states that the Office of Management of Budget (OMB) and OPM will use
these inventories to collect and encourage best practices in Federal employee
Currently, there is a renewed opportunity to define
“wellness,” which falls under “work-life” balance programs and, at times, has a
broad description. It can include the
following: physical exercise, nutrition, quality sleep, stress management, and
even ergonomics. The key to wellness is
maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall. All interviewed agree that a “holistic
approach” to wellness is necessary.
Nancy McWilliams, CSP, ARM, Director of Commerce’s Office
of Occupational Safety and Health (OOSH), says the Department wants all
employees to stay well while they are at work.
This means that supervisors must take actions to ensure that their
employees perform their work safely.
This also means that employees have a responsibility to come to work
healthy, follow safety guidelines, and wear personal protective equipment if it
Sarah Bullard Steck, LICSW, CEAP, Director of Commerce’s
Employee Assistance Program (EAP), says that “work-life issues, wellness,
health promotion and prevention are increasingly recognized as essential
components of employee productivity and retention.” Addressing the behavioral, emotional,
physical, and family side of employees is now viewed as “an underpinning of
employees and groups working together effectively and productively.” Organizations are valuing “the people side of
the business as well as the business side,” says Steck. EAP and the HCHB Health Unit work closely
together to attend to DOC employees’ mind/body health and to promote prevention
This fall, as we face the seasonal influenza as well as
the H1N1 pandemic influenza
OOSH recently posted a DOC-wide broadcast email with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) recommendations to help employees stay well and reduce their chances of
getting any type of influenza:
Wash your hands frequently with
soap and water.
Cover your mouth and nose with a
tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Put used tissues in a waste basket.
Cough or sneeze into your upper
sleeve if you don't have a tissue.
Clean your hands after coughing or
sneezing. Use soap and water or alcohol-based cleaner.
Stay at home if you are sick. (This
doesn’t mean go to the store, etc. It means stay home!)
It is always a
good idea to practice good health habits: eat a balanced diet, exercise on
a regular basis, and get plenty of rest.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a wealth of information on
their websites that you and your family can use to stay well. For additional
information you can go to
The government’s pandemic influenza website also provides actions you
and your family can take to stay well at
HCHB Health Unit registered nurses Andra Matthews, RN,
BSN, COHN and Jane Ovedovitz, RN, FNP are planning new activities, which
include “Walking for Life & Health,” a blood pressure program and a
diabetic program. Walking group
participants are encouraged to have goals.
“What do you want to accomplish?
Come in here and let us see where you are,” urges Matthews.
The nurses stress the importance of evaluating one’s
wellbeing. The health unit, therefore,
provides health testing and weekly check-ups to help participants reach their
goals. The group exercise program “will
have a holistic flair,” and even include herbal tea, says Matthews.
The DOC HCHB Health Unit has provided health awareness
workshops on such topics as smoking cessation and weight reduction. DOC has also worked with FOH to bring in
speakers to address a wide variety of health and wellness topics such as
nutritional health and stress management.
Stress management is a topic EAP regularly addresses
among other work-life issues such as childcare and eldercare. EAP provides tailored individual and group
counseling as well as screenings. Her stress
management workshops have come out of a need that Steck sees in people who seek
her services. “People are over-stressed,
on deadlines, and feel great pressure to achieve,” Steck says. She often looks at organizational issues, and
also ways in which each person can manage stress better. Via counseling, training and resources, says
Steck, EAP “will enable employees to devote themselves to work while they are
at work so they can perform work well.”
Management Tip: Say Cheese. Smiling is a two way mechanism.
We do it when we're relaxed and happy, but doing it can also make us feel
relaxed and happy. Smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial
muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm. Go ahead and grin. Don't you feel
For more information go to
DOC and other agencies will be
shaping their worksite wellness programs according to guidelines OPM will
provide. in the meantime, DOC employees are encouraged to take advantage
of existing wellness and work-life balance opportunities.
If you have questions please contact Helen Eliassian at (202)
Sitting down with the nurses of HCHB’s Health Unit to
discuss health and nutrition is a mind-opening experience. As I enter the Health Unit’s waiting area on HCHB’s
sixth floor, there are educational materials, including a DVD playing in the
background. Inspirational messages
surround me, adding to a welcoming feeling as I walk through the well-lit
A note on the importance of gratitude and colorful
pictures in the office of Nurse Coordinator, Andra Matthews, RN, BSN, COHN,
catch my eyes. In the office where Jane
Ovedovitz, RN, FNP works, I see a note suggesting one can replace the traditional
“To-Do-List” with a novel “To-Be-List.” It has this quotation by Albert Einstein: “Try
not to become a man of success but rather become a man of value.”
I sit down and ask the nurses questions about health and
wellness. They tell me about the
importance of education on such critical topics. “A lot of people don’t know,” says Matthews,
“and should take the initiative to educate themselves.” Better choices stem from having adequate
knowledge. “You start with yourself
first,” says Ovedovitz, “and recognize that nothing else can happen” unless one
Nutrition is an important component of health. “You are what you eat,” Matthews tells me. I decide not to think about the chocolate bar
of earlier. “You need to make sound
decisions, to put in your body what is supposed to be there,” emphasizes
Matthews. She tells me that earlier in
the day she shared carrot juice with a patient whom she reminded of the vital role
of nutrition in overall wellbeing.
In general, the nurses prescribe long term lifestyle
changes versus short-lived diets. If
your goal is to lose weight, you should take on the “slow and gradual”
approach, since diets don’t work in the long run, notes Ovedovitz. Eating well is “preventative health,”
A key to forming a healthy eating habit is moderation. The strategy of not eating in order to lose
weight means starving one’s body of the nutrients in needs for sustenance. As a result, the body starts to break down
sugar it stores in the liver, elevating blood sugar levels. Elevated fasting glucose (sugar) is viewed as
a risk factor for the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Overeating also puts stress on one’s
body. To keep blood sugar levels in
balance, the pancreas has to work extra hard to secrete insulin. There’s a reason why medium is often preceded
by the word happy. Savoring a small
piece of dark chocolate a few times per week is a wiser and happier choice in
the long-run, I remind myself.
Ideally, we should be striving toward a life style that
is healthy and positive, that incorporates healthy eating habits plus
exercise. The nurses also highlight the
role of managing stress and maintaining a positive outlook. Emotional wellbeing, while often overlooked,
is an important component of wellness. People under chronic stress can
experience negative impacts on their physical/emotional health and overall wellbeing,
We discuss the importance of distinguishing between the
things we can’t change and those things we do have the power to alter,
including our attitude. Studies in
positive psychology show the positive impact of gratitude on one’s happiness. A miniature sculpture on my desk of two hands
coming together in thanks serves as a reminder to count my blessings.
Talking to Matthews and Ovedovits offers wonderful
reminders and useful information on living healthier that we can all apply to our
daily lives for that, I’m thankful.
Below is nurses’ nutrition prescription.
Tips on Healthy Eating
To start: “know your numbers,” which refers to blood
pressure, cholesterol level and blood sugar.
Cut back on sugar.
Instead, have healthier, fiber-filled snacks on hand such as fruit, nuts
and cut veggies. Oatmeal and legumes are
also great sources of fiber, which keeps one’s blood sugar in check.
Try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet, in
addition to whole grains.
Limit your intake of caffeine, which is a stimulant and
alters the body’s chemistry. You should
be particularly careful if you suffer from high blood pressure. (The Health Unit itself is caffeine-free.)
After a meal, wait some time, and then drink juice or
water so that the digestive enzymes in the body don’t become diluted. If thirsty, a glass of water prior to any
meal is fine. Keeping your body hydrated
is always a good idea!
Frequent meals throughout the day, which are smaller in
size, serve as healthier alternatives to three large meals. Note: not eating in the hope of losing weight
or, conversely, having large meals put stress on the body.
Breakfast: start the day on the right foot and don’t skip
this meal, which should ideally include fiber
ideally consist of the three S’s: soup, salad and sandwich (all three in
Dinner: should consist of a very light meal (since it
takes meat 6-12 hours to digest)
Counting calories is important, yet each person’s calorie
needs vary depending on his/her frame and activity level. Also, it is vitally important to know where
the calories come from. Reading labels
helps. Typically, an adult male requires
about 2,000 calories and an adult female requires about 1,500 calories.
Personal Property Inventory
Over the last couple of months, you may have noticed your
office’s Property Custodian scurrying around, looking for barcodes on various
pieces of equipment. The reason why
they’ve been so diligently looking for barcodes is because the Custodian must, on
an annual basis, take an inventory of all of the personal property within their
custodial area and reconcile that property in the official property system,
“Sunflower.” The types of property that
are entered in Sunflower include computers, monitors, printers, copiers, fax
machines, Blackberries, and vehicles.
Here are the steps of this inventory process:
Beginning in early July of
this year, the Property Custodians have been conducting the physical inventory
walkthrough of the offices within their custodial area, checking the barcodes on
each piece of equipment that is accounted for in the Sunflower property
If they find a piece of equipment that does not
have a barcode, they attach a barcode label and enter pertinent information
into the system.
Once the Custodian has completed the physical
inventory, they next have to reconcile the inventory with what has been entered
in Sunflower. There can be no
discrepancies between the inventory and reconciliation.
If a piece of property is discovered during the
inventory and is not in Sunflower, it has to be entered into the system before
the inventory can be reconciled.
If a piece of property is listed in Sunflower
but cannot be located, an accounting for that property must be undertaken.
Finally, each Custodian submits a certificate of
completion, signed by his or her supervisor, to the Business Unit Property
Accountability Officer (PAO) once they have finished their inventory and
reconciliation. The Assistant Secretary
or Head of Unit certifies, in writing, once all Custodians in their Unit have
provided certificates of completion.
If you have any questions about property management in
general, you may contact the PAO for your Unit.
The contacts for each Business Unit are Jeff Scherr (CFO-Admin &
OUS), Earl Brake (OCIO), Carol Crane (MAC), Annette Henderson (MAS), Leticia
Dooley (IA), and Yvette Johnson-Jones (US&FCS).
If you have questions about the annual inventory, please
contact ITA’s Property Management Officer, Jeff Scherr, at (202) 482-3266 or
If you are a property official and have technical questions
about the Sunflower system (or barcode scanners), please contact the Sunflower
Help Desk at 202-482-4110 or
Audio and Web
Did you know that ITA has audio and web conferencing
services available just by making a phone call?
Audio conferencing is a cost effective way to conduct meetings with
colleagues and customers who can connect from virtually any location and can
handle any size meeting, from 3 to 3,000.
Web conferencing (also known as WebEx) allows your audience to view
materials or presentations over the internet while listening to the audio
portion over the telephone. Participants
only need to have a telephone and a computer with browser capability. ITA uses VerizonBusiness for audio and web
conferencing services. Here are
instructions for how to set up audio and web conferences and some tips to help
make your conference more successful.
is what you need to do to reserve an audio conference call:
- Dial VerizonBusiness
- Press option 1 for audio
- Enter the appropriate
for a Successful Audio Conference:
- Conduct a roll call.
- Remind participants to identify
themselves by name and location when speaking.
- Address individuals by name when
- Encourage participation and
- Remind participants to please not
put the conference call on hold as all of the other participants will be
subjected to listening to their “hold” music.
- Press *0 at any time for
conference coordinator assistance.
- If you get disconnected, simply
re-dial the conference phone number and enter the passcode. If the
conference coordinator dialed out to you and placed you into the call, he
or she will reconnect you.
- To ensure the sound quality of your
call is clear:
- Speak clearly and avoid side
conversations and background noise.
- Try to avoid using a
speakerphone. However, if it is necessary, be sure to use the mute button/feature
when not speaking.
- If your meeting has many
participants but few speakers, increase the sound quality of your call by
asking your reservationist to place participants in
"listen-only" mode until it is time for them to speak.
you have issues with your conference call, please contact Emily Waldron from
VerizonBusiness at 703-886-7007 or via email at
reserve a web conference or to receive training, contact Emily Waldron from
VerizonBusiness at 703-886-7007 or via email at
Tips for a Successful
- Allow a few minutes for
participants to connect before beginning the meeting.
- Use at least a 20-point font size
- Prior to the meeting, become
familiar with the features and functionality.
- Close all other active
you have any questions about audio or web conferencing, please contact Jeff
Scherr at (202)482-3266 or via email at
Kelli Walters at (202)482-3265 or via email at
Kelli.Walters@mail.doc.gov in the
Office of Management and Operations.
What’s happening with the Common Data Platform (CDP) ?
The Common Data Platform (Ourplace.ita.doc.gov)
is continually improving to help meet the data and information needs of ITA
staff. Following increased outreach efforts and
comments received back from users. In order to improve the system- we
are currently in the process of making layout changes to our Training and News
Resources tabs, and we are also planning to add additional features to the CDP
in the coming months.
CDP recently purchased several new resources from the Bureau of National Affairs
(BNA), including the International Trade Reporter, the Environment Reporter, the
World Intellectual Property Reporter, and the Product Safety and Liability
Reporter. These new products can now be accessed through CDP and if requested
alerts for these are available by email.
CDP will soon be purchasing products from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
and Business Monitor International (BMI).
ITA staff worldwide will soon
have access to EIU’s China Regional Forecasting Service, Country Data, Country
Commerce Reports and Country Forecasts. The CDP currently provides access to the
EIU Country Reports (found under Country Information).
Industry information will soon
be available from
(BMI ). This source offers global and country
specific data on 24 important industries. As always,
the CDP team welcomes any feedback.
Please forward any questions or
ideas to the project managers:
Julie Al-Saadawi (IA), (202)
482-1930 or Wassel Mashagbeh (MAS), (202) 482-4691.
Under a Continuing Resolution
though the fiscal year starts on October 1st, it is normal now to
begin the year without the budget that we presented to the Congress but rather
a temporary budget called a continuing resolution. For those who are new to government
service (and there are a fair number of you out there) Wikipedia describes a
continuing resolution as:
used by the
States Congress to fund government agencies if a formal
appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the Congressional
year. The legislation takes the form of a
resolution, and provides funding for existing federal programs at
current or reduced levels.
are a few fine points that the Wikipedia folks left out but generally speaking
their definition is quite useful.
When explaining the key aspects of a
resolution, commonly called a CR, to International Trade Administration staff we
like to highlight the following three features:
the CR says that it provides funding for
federal programs at current or reduced levels it
means that you may not stop a program that was running at the end of the year
and you may not start any new program that was included in the new budget as a
the CR says
or reduced levels it
means that generally you will have less money than you did during the same time
frame last year. The general rule of thumb
is that we are to operate with in the limits of the lesser of; a) The
House report on our appropriation (if there is one); b) The Senate report on our
appropriation 9if there is one); or c) prior years amounts, In most cases, we
will be operating with no more than we had in the previous year.
actions that are effective during the period of the CR are frequently impacted
by the fact that funds are only available during the period of the CR, even if
the contract period of performance extends beyond the CR – this requires that
fund availability beyond the term of the CR is annotated with the phrase
“subject to the availability of funds” which occasionally causes processing
delays with procurement staff and the vendors.
best thing to do if you have a question about how a CR may impact your specific
program is to call your Resource Coordinator or budget analyst listed
Access and Compliance
and Foreign Commercial Service
" Rick Keller
As you are aware, at this time of year we are faced with the
process known as “Year-End Close-Out”.
This is an accounting
procedure undertaken at the end of the fiscal year (September 30) to
from the previous year and open
for the upcoming year. Year-end close-out
is a process we go through each year to ensure that our
financial records accurately reflect the accounting activity that is the basis
for our external reporting.
As such, many of the activities require special attention and
action. Financial Management staff throughout ITA are called upon to review their
accounts to ensure the accuracy of their records, to include, but not limited
- Review all open obligations and remove those no
- Check for discrepancies between accounts and
- Ensure travel orders have proper coding and are
assigned to the appropriate fiscal year.
- Ensure travel orders note Continuing Resolution
language as appropriate.
- Ensure that receivables and payables are
- Ensure bankcard information is updated and posted
- Establish estimated accruals for those instances
where it is necessary to record assets, expenses and liabilities for services
rendered and goods received for which we will not be billed prior to the end of
the accounting period.
- Establish estimated obligations for those
instances where it is necessary to record a valid obligation which will exist as
of September 30, but has not been processed in the financial system by the
established cut-off dates.
All of the above
are very technical and require a great
deal of coordination and communication to ensure a proper “Year-End
Close-Out”. These tasks are
by ITA-OFM, Accounting and Financial Systems Division.
To assist ITA-OFM, we
call upon Richard (Rick) Keller, a 4th year seasonal contractor. Rick comes up from Texas for 90
days each year to assist both with the annual OMB A-123 Internal Controls
review, required to support the Department’s financial statements audit and
preparation and coordination of the year-end close-out activities for ITA-OFM. Rick’s knowledge,
experience and support have been invaluable when it comes to conducting reviews,
preparing schedules and deadlines for document processing, preparing year-end
guidance, and working with office staff to ensure that we meet all our deadlines
timely. Thank you Rick!
If you have any questions, Rick
Keller can be reached at (202) 482-8364.
ITA Rotation and Intern Programs Prove Highly Successful
The Office of Travel
and Tourism Industries (OTTI) benefitted greatly from the formal ITA Rotation
and Internship programs implemented by the International Trade Administration
this summer. OTTI offered several
rotation opportunities which garnered the talents of two Commercial Service
staff members who tackled projects OTTI had not been able accomplish.
In addition, OTTI received invaluable assistance from the efforts of four college interns who
have brought a broad cross-section of backgrounds and talents with them to
the Department of Commerce.
temporary employees generated tremendous work products in the short
time they worked with OTTI, As such, Office Director Helen Marano thought it would
be beneficial for other supervisors and the Office of
Strategic Resources staff responsible for both the rotation and internships
programs to have a first-hand look at their work. OTTI convened a presentation meeting on July
29th that showcased their individual successes.
Timmins and Jennifer Kirsch each had 4-month stays with OTTI. Kirsch, on rotation from the U.S. Commercial
Service’s Office of Marketing and Communications, said, "The rotation program has
given me an opportunity for professional growth that I wouldn't have had
otherwise - providing me with insight into a different unit of ITA, specific
industry knowledge, and a chance to focus on policy-related work."
on rotation from the U.S. Commercial Service’s Office of Trade Missions, said, “I
have gained a great deal from this experience - I have learned about a dynamic
and fascinating industry sector, I have utilized different skill sets and I
have learned about a different business unit.
This was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow, all in a friendly
and stimulating environment.”
While the interns had different starting and ending dates,
their periods of stay with OTTI were about three months each. The Interns’ backgrounds were varied: Three attend school in the Midwest, while one
is studying for an M.B.A. at Georgetown University.
Erica Robinson, an intern from
Northwestern University, said, “My internship at the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries has
simultaneously provided an opportunity to apply my background in Economics and
Chinese as well as an opportunity to learn the workings of a unique government
with and working under people who have such passion for their careers has been
an invaluable experience,” Jim Schweiker, intern from the University of Kansas,
said. “My bosses have taught me so much
here—I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to reciprocate the wisdom they’ve shared
Catie Vandervoort, a graduate student at Georgetown University,
said of her internship, “It has been an absolute pleasure working with OTTI's
top-notch team that is successful, knowledgeable, and approachable.”
and understanding the impact that the travel and tourism industries have on the
U.S. economy has been an eye-opening experience,” Sean Bert, intern from the
Ohio State University, said.
Marano, Director, OTTI, strongly supports both the rotation and internship
programs and has volunteered to speak to other office directors within ITA who
may be considering participation in these programs.
For more information on ITA
internship programs go to
http://www.ita.doc.gov/hrm/documents/ita_rotations.pdf or contact Lesley
Nichols on (202) 482-3504.
Termination Of The STU III Secure Phone
Did you know that effective December 31, 2009,
the National Security Agency (NSA) will no longer support the STU III program? All STU III phones and KOV-14 encryption
cards will become obsolete, therefore all who will require secure
communications will have to upgrade to the new digital Security Terminal Equipment
(STE). In addition, units will have to
purchase the new KSV-21 encryption cards in order for the STE device to operate
in secure mode.
STEs and KSV-21 cards may be ordered on NSA’s master
contract by submitting a purchase order via normal procurement channels. The cost for a STE phone is $2814.00 and $300.00
for a KSV-21 card.
During the transition period, the ITA security staff will
ensure that the SIPRNET room is equipped for anyone needing to make a secure
For STE and all other security related questions, please
call Dana Ervin on (202) 482-1205 or Monica Hill on (202) 482-3349.
Send your suggestions or comments about this newsletter to Nina.Harris@mail.doc.gov