Federal Spotlight: Tony Scardino
MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today?
TS: I have been in Federal service for 20 years and spent an additional five years supporting the Federal government in advisory and grantee roles.
As the CFO of a Federal agency now, my main responsibilities are to ensure financial viability for an agency that is fully fee-funded. We are responsible for charging our customers fees for the services we provide, but we are not allowed to make a profit or run a deficit. In addition to the customary roles of a federal CFO – budget, accounting, financial management systems, annual audit, and performance – I am also responsible for all procurement and acquisition related activities for the agency.
MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?
TS: Primarily, it’s the opportunity to make a difference. I am much more engaged as a leader when I know that my efforts are helping to shape the direction of an organization and the job satisfaction and engagement of the team I oversee. As compared to my roles in the private sector, which I found laudable as well, I found that more emphasis was placed on increasing market share and profitability. In my current role I am very interested and motivated to provide the best services possible for the least cost, while also ensuring that these services are truly ones that only the public sector can or should provide.
MC: What is one of your biggest achievements?
TS: In 2011, the Congress enacted the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which reformed the patent system in the U.S. As part of this landmark legislation, USPTO was given authority to set fees by regulation for the first time in its 220 year history. Previously, Congress provided taxpayer funds or set the fee rates, which resulted in inefficiencies due to the typical challenges of the legislative process. These inefficiencies led to a significant backlog of work at the USPTO and our stakeholders waited years to get patents awarded. In order to help reduce this backlog and provide better service to our customers, USPTO, under the direction of the Office of the CFO, undertook an 18-month process of setting new fee rates for the first time ever. We did so by employing a very collaborative process, working closely with partners in the Administration, Congress, and our stakeholders. This partnership resulted in new fee rates in 2013, representing roughly a 15-20 percent increase in revenue that enabled USPTO to more readily address long-standing operational, hiring, and IT challenges, which ultimately led to a reduction in the backlog and processing times for patent applications.
MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop?
TS: Stick with it! What I mean by that is, no two jobs are alike. If you are not satisfied with the impact you are making at one agency or one particular job, find another one! The level of responsibility that government employees get at relatively young ages is noteworthy and unlike anything I have seen in other sectors. The ability to affect lives of one, many, or all Americans is not something that can be overlooked or forgotten. Value added builds exponentially for most of us, so a brief pit stop doesn’t give anyone the true opportunity to make a meaningful difference.
MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government?
TS: Be patient. The government is increasingly viewed as an “employer of choice” so there are more and more applicants for Federal positions. So oftentimes applicants have to apply for more than one job and possibly at more than one time in their career to successfully enter public service. Take it from someone like me who joined the Federal government 25 years ago and then left a few times to try the private and non-profit sectors; I can assure you that your patience will be rewarded with challenging work and significant accomplishments at several points in your career.
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