Survey: Government financial leaders eye reform as CFO Act’s 30th anniversary nears


ARLINGTON — Federal chief financial officers (CFOs) believe they have to reassess their responsibilities if they are going to focus on the major challenges facing departments and agencies across the federal government. That’s according to the 24th annual survey of government CFOs conducted by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) and Grant Thornton’s Public Sector practice.

The annual survey gauges the perspectives of dozens of CFOs, deputy CFOs, and other federal financial leaders on the top challenges they face. This year, those challenges include the expanding role and responsibilities of the CFO, the critical need for qualified financial management staff, budget uncertainty and technology adoption.

Among the key findings:

  • Almost 50 percent of survey respondents identified human capital – including the burdensome hiring process, lack of competitive pay and benefits and a gap in required core competencies – as one of their top two most significant challenges.
  • CFOs ranked data analytics tools highest among the new approaches and technologies they expect to impact their operations.
  • A more consistent, standardized scope of duties within the CFO community would heighten official and public understanding of central responsibilities and enable more strategic decision-making and operational oversight.
  • CFOs should play a lead role in reforming the current budget process. More certainty in the budgeting process would help provide agencies with the flexibility to focus on more significant analytical and planning exercises.

“CFOs are at the forefront of change within their departments – they want to innovate, and they need to continuously evolve,” said Jay Hurt, managing director with Grant Thornton’s Public Sector practice. “No matter what changes to the roles and responsibilities of the CFO emerge, or what budgetary, human capital or technology reforms arise, the federal financial management community must come together to communicate clearly and consistently what is being proposed, and why, to stakeholders in Congress and elsewhere.”

“Each year there is a new twist to the CFO Survey findings, and this year no different. CFOs share a renewed desire to contribute more strategically to the overall scope of their organizations and have intriguing views on their span of control,” said AGA CEO Ann Ebberts. “This year’s findings also highlight the significant influence of technological advances on ‘the work’ of the OCFO staff, driving the need to learn new skills and creating opportunities to have a greater impact.”

To read the full report, A Business Case for Change: CFOs and the Path Forward, visit

About AGA
AGA is the member organization for financial professionals supporting government. AGA leads and encourages change that benefits the field and all citizens. Its networking events, professional certification, publications and ongoing education help members build their skills and advance their careers. For more information, visit

About Grant Thornton LLP

Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. Grant Thornton, which has revenues in excess of $1.8 billion and operates 58 offices, works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.

“Grant Thornton” refers to Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions.




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