News Release, NAVAIR News
PATUXENT RIVER, Md.–Described as an innovative leader who is passionate about supporting the warfighter and connecting his team to the mission, Carson Carroll was named Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) 2018 Business Financial Manager (BFM) of the Year.
The Assistant Program Executive Officer (APEO) for Business and Financial Management (AIR-1.0) since 2004, Carroll has ensured financial analysis places more than a supporting role in program management. He is also the division head of the Program Management Division, Program and Business Analysis Department.
“Carson Carroll is a visionary and leader who is highly resourceful and flexible,” said Todd Washington, director of NAVAIR’s Program and Business Analysis Department. “He is recognized for being a leader who embraced and advanced data visualization and new NAVAIR business tools, such as the Common Spend Plan Tool (CSPT). He also led the testing, integration and institutionalization of visuals derived from CSPT.”
The award recognizes a senior BFM who supports the warfighter, leads by example and shares best practices with their team to enhance NAVAIR’s success in delivering products in a timely manner to the fleet.
For Carroll, it’s all about the team effort and leadership qualities—honed during his 10 years in the Marine Corps—such as integrity, loyalty, honesty and consistency.
“Mr. Carroll creates an inspiring vision of the future and pursues that vision through his dynamic team. He motivates and inspires people to engage in that vision, and manages ways to make that vision come to fruition,” said Cindy Carroll, Carson Carroll’s deputy of 10 years. The two are not related.
Speed to the Fleet
Carroll has internalized “speed to the fleet” throughout his career, and enabled his team leads to connect their work directly to the fleet during a 2016 saltwater trip to Norfolk, Virginia.
He noticed that while his team was effective at working within NAVAIR and with resource sponsors and the Navy Office of Budget (FMB), his leads without military experience did not understand the responsibilities their military counterparts—the supply corps officers—have in the fleet.
“There’s one reason we are here, and it’s for those Marines and Sailors. That’s what spawned the saltwater trip,” Carroll said.
While driving back from his daughter’s graduation from Virginia Wesleyan in May 2016, Carroll was struck by the sight of an aircraft carrier docked at Naval Base Norfolk.
“Now, those aircraft carriers have been there the whole time, but this happened to hit me at a time when I’m very proud of my daughter and very proud of my team back here. I was also trying to define what it really means to support the fleet,” he said.
To make that fleet connection, Carroll arranged a two-day trip in September 2016 with 15 members of his team to tour USS George Washington (CVN 73) in Norfolk so they could talk to Sailors who were using the support equipment and flight deck gear managed by their program offices.
“We got to talk to Sailors on the carrier about some of their issues,” Carroll said. “The team took notes and took the issues back to their program managers to make sure they were aware of the issues.”
They also visited an H-60 squadron where two lieutenants shared their chief gripe: the helicopter’s gunner’s seat.
“The replacement prototype had already been developed, but here are my guys who work in that program office sitting in that gunner’s seat saying, ‘Wow, this is tight.’ Now they have a better appreciation for why we’re doing the gunner’s seat,” Carroll said.
Tom Kuss, who was the deputy BFM for the Aircrew Systems Program Office at the time, found the trip insightful.
“The ability to talk to and receive feedback from the Sailors who were using the gear that I was responsible for was invaluable,” said Kuss, who now supports the Comptroller’s Budget and Execution. Office. “It provided not only an affirmation of purpose as to what we do every day at NAVAIR but also allowed me to interact with the fleet in a way not often available to financial managers.”
After the Marine Corps, Carroll joined NAVAIR as a contractor. He was then hired into the BFM internship program where he excelled, said Greg Yellman, deputy assistant commander for Corporate Ops and Total Force.
“Carroll had the right attitude, the right approach, and the right energy. He was willing to step up and he did. We gave him the opportunity and he ran with it,” Yellman said. “He quickly rose to a lead analyst to lead BFM for a program office to a competency manager.”
Yellman attributes Carroll’s attitude toward his training as a Marine.
“You show him the hill and he’d take the hill. We showed him a program and he took the program,” Yellman said.
After graduating from the intern program, Carroll was assigned to what was at the time the Multi-Mission Aircraft Program Office, which handled a lot of the work now conducted by the Commercial Derivative Aircraft Office. Early on, he realized that the program office was not effectively using its financial department.
“They were keeping their own books in the integrated product team (IPT). The financial shop was not invited to program management reviews (PMRs). All they wanted from us was a funding document processed,” he said.
Carroll set out to change that by attending PMRs and then briefing the financials for the H-3 Program Office. From there, he moved to the adversary program office, where he interacted with the squadron aviators and maintenance officers.
“I totally widened my lane,” he said. “I realized if I can learn about the program up front and early, I can be a part of that conversation. It’s about being more analytical versus transactional.”
While BFMs are driven to perform a lot of transactions because of the nature of the work, Carroll believes that BFMs must also understand the technical aspects of their program. This enables them to answer FMB’s financial questions themselves instead of waiting for an IPT lead to answer.
“For me, wait is waste. If I can answer the question because I understand the program, then I am more valuable to the team,” he said.
At the commercial program office, Carroll reorganized BFM support from appropriations-based to program-based and brought the contracted program analysts into the financial team and trained them. He also emphasized the need for BFMs to understand all types of funding appropriations.
“As an engineer in the Marine Corps, I was still expected—because every Marine is a rifleman—to be proficient with my M16. I didn’t shoot my gun on a daily basis, but I better know how to shoot it if something goes wrong,” Carroll said. “That’s the same thing I stress with my BFMs: proficiency in all of the appropriations.”
Carroll said he relies on his lead BFMs, who meet regularly as the Air 1.0 Lead Council, to get things done. Holding up a CD labeled “WAA in a Box,” he remembered the council’s first project 14 years ago—development of the Workload Acceptance Agreement (WAA) process.
“While some would say 14 years is too long for a person to be in one position, I would say, ‘yeah, if it were a stagnant position,’ but it’s not. Air 1.0 leadership continues to say ‘go do this.’ And my team is willing to push the envelope and drive change,” he said.
Change comes naturally to Carroll, who attended four high schools.
“I grew up as a military dependent, so if I’m not changing, I am going to get pretty bored. So I continue to look for the next project,” he said.
The project he and his team are tackling now is developing a funds flow tool to automatically transfer data from the CSPT in to a format—a visualization—that program managers can use to analyze their productivity ratio, which is a comparison of end-item products to interim products or direct costs to overhead costs.
An initiative led by Air 1.0A which included both the BFM and acquisition teams, this visualization will provide program managers with a picture of how they are doing.
“Based on where the program is in the acquisition lifecycle, managers can analyze what changes need to be made to deliver more product to the fleet,” Carroll said. “I’ve been pushing my folks really hard to get this done,” he said. The goal is for a spring delivery.
“I entered this whole process as a 56-year-old baby boomer. I’m a spreadsheet guy. Through this learning process, I’ve become a 57-year-old millennial. I’m starting to get it and I’m starting to see the value of the tools we’re producing.”
Carroll also values his team and attributes his selection as the BFM of the Year to the team’s effort.
“Although I am greatly appreciative of the individual award, I do recognize that everything the citation calls out has been a collaborative effort supported by each of you and your teams,” he wrote in an email to his team leads after winning the award. “You are amazing professionals and your efforts are being recognized at the highest level of the command.”
“He definitely pushes us to be the best financial leaders we can be, and he is always willing to help in any way, shape or form,” Cindy Carroll said.