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DHA Comptroller Health Certification Program Will Build Talent Pool

Image of DHA Comptroller Health Certification Program Will Build Talent Pool. Kristyn Jones, assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for financial management and comptroller, speaks to members of the financial management workforce during a visit to Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, on Aug. 11, 2022. The Defense Health Agency has approved a plan to offer a standardized certification program for comptrollers that is specialized to health care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Comptrollers are the Defense Health Agency’s senior level accounting and finance management professionals. It takes 24 to 36 months for comptrollers to develop their health care management skills, and there is an ongoing need for comptrollers to fill positions within the DHA.

To meet those needs, the DHA has developed a standardized comptroller training and continuing education program across the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force in a $3.9 million effort.

Filling a Career Demand

Specifically, the Certified Defense Financial Management-Healthcare certification program will build a dedicated group of comptrollers across the services to fill much-needed positions in DHA facilities.

The program certification exists for other functional areas, but this is the first for health care and will replace different training pipelines in the three services. It will be validated through the nonprofit American Society of Military Comptrollers.

“Once this program is fully established, you can theoretically pull an Army comptroller and put them in a Navy facility,” said U.S. Army Maj. Joshua Moser, the former chief financial officer at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Missouri. “They will be able to run that [health care facility] just as efficiently as they could an Army facility,” said Moser, who helped design the certification program and recently completed his comptroller certification.

“Reduce administrative overhead, provide foundational knowledge, and it levels the playing field out for all three services,” he explained.

A comptroller’s career may be complicated but rewarding.

“Being a comptroller is one of the most complex fields you can get into, because it’s a multitude of different domains that you really have to understand,” said U.S. Army Col. John Lee, deputy chief financial officer of DHA financial operations.

Domains include revenue cycle management, Medicare and Medicaid management, and sharing agreements with insurance companies and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“There's a lot of different complexities that are much more organic health care than I think for regular financial management,” Lee said. “The health certification program exists to codify all those requirements and build something that everybody could gravitate to and gain similar skill sets at the end of the program.”

Who Can Be a Comptroller?

U.S. Army captains and majors, and similar-level officers in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force who are looking to move into the comptroller world should apply for the program, as well as senior comptrollers who need to comply with some of the new program’s objectives, Lee said.

In the U.S. Army, for instance, “you have to be in either company command or post command before you're even eligible to compete for our comptroller programs, which means you have between six-to-seven years of experience before you're eligible,” Moser explained.

Civilian DHA financial specialists are also eligible to get the certification, adding to the bench of trained professionals.

DHA has a direct-hire authority for civilian financial managers, “because financial analysts are slim pickins across the entire spectrum,” Lee noted.

Funding for the certification program will be a two-pronged process, with those seeking the certification making an initial investment. Once they pass the course, individuals will be reimbursed, Lee explained.

Best of the Best

Syracuse University and Harvard University offer the certifications online, and there’s also online training via existing DHA program offerings. The American Society of Military Comptrollers offers continuing senior level training through its professional development institute. DHA negotiated a “50% discount on the price to get a top-tier financial master’s degree from Syracuse University; it’s an incredible return on investment,” Lee said.

Executive leadership programs through Harvard are geared toward level one and two for commanders, general officers, and senior executive service personnel. There are also comptroller financial manager leadership programs available through Harvard.

“We're literally bringing in the best of the best to train DHA leadership, both military and civilian,” Moser said. “On top of that, we're building an organic training capability [within DHA] that doesn't exist right now …. It will serve as a one-stop shop for training financial leaders.”

“You have to constantly refine the core skill set” via continuing education because duty positions often change, and comptrollers might not remain in their same environment,” Moser said. There are additional capabilities coming out of the program outside of master’s degrees, he added.

“This program is actually bigger than a lot of people would probably see initially because we are part of a professional Department of Defense organization that recognizes that certification,” Lee said, adding: “This is groundbreaking.”

While the CDFM-H has not officially launched, you can find more information on the certification at the American Society of Military Comptrollers.

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Last Updated: July 10, 2023
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