Transforming Finance at the Coast Guard

CHAD BRICK, MBA ’13
COMMANDER AND SEVENTH DISTRICT BUDGET OFFICER, U.S. COAST GUARD, MIAMI

BY PETER HAAPANIEMI

After he graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2001, Chad Brick was sent to Hawaii and then to Florida. Along the way, he rescued pilots and migrants and pursued drug smugglers. As commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Drummond, Brick was involved in two major drug seizures off Florida that netted $1.1 million in illicit goods. 

In 2013, Brick moved into a finance role for the Coast Guard, becoming the budget officer for its Seventh District in the Southeastern U.S. and managing finances for some 110 Coast Guard Commands. The role challenged him right off the bat. “Our budget is about $84 million, about four times the size of most other districts,” he says. However, his staff was relatively small. He rethought the way finance operated and essentially began re-engineering the function. “I started standardizing and automating processes as much as possible,” Brick says. His goal: “Instead of fighting fires every day, I wanted to deal with the basic problems of finance in ways that would be sustainable.” In addition to streamlining work, he created a website that provided a single point of access to all Coast Guard finance information. 

“When we started, information was all over the place, across a lot of websites,” he says. “It was good information, but unless you knew what you were looking for and where it was, it was difficult to find. Now, it’s all in one place.” The portal has saved the equivalent of 12,500 man-hours per year. 

Over time, Brick added procurement and property management to this approach, sharing it with financial managers through a SharePoint work area he created. Known as Common Core, it manages knowledge and information and offers a standardized workflow for 15 key processes, increasing transparency and enhancing audit compliance. More than 500 Coast Guard units use the practices. 

In June 2016, the Coast Guard recognized Brick’s work with its Chief Financial Officer Award for Excellence. The citation noted that he had transformed finance, and that “compliance increased from 58% to an astounding 80% amongst 125 Coast Guard units located in five different countries.” Overall, it said, Brick implemented more than a dozen savings initiatives that are projected to save $50 million by 2027. This May, Brick received the Coast Guard’s Commander Joel Magnussen Innovation Award for Management for Common Core.

The standardized approach also supports the Coast Guard’s ability to respond. “If there is a hurricane, for example, the portal gives us a central point to manage things like supplies,” Brick explains. “We are always searching for better ways to use our staff and do our work.”

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