Gwendolyn Sykes

Gwendolyn Sykes

Chief Financial Officer

At his confirmation hearing in April, NASA's 11th administrator told senators the agency's chief financial officer, Gwendolyn Sykes, wasn't getting all the resources she needed. She says Michael Griffin kept his promise to see what else could be done to clean up a data mess that keeps NASA from earning clean audit opinions. They met during his second day on the job and within two weeks, she had $100,000 to spend on extra help at the agency's 10 field installations and Washington headquarters.

Her challenge lies in the accounting and financial information being fed into NASA's freshly installed Integrated Financial Management program. In the past three years, the agency implemented SAP's Core Financial Module software. The effort commingled 12 years' worth of data from 10 legacy systems into a single repository.

Auditors have issued disclaimers in three of the past four years because of NASA's inability to produce complete and accurate financial statements, and the IG predicts it will be at least 2007 before they render another clean opinion. "It's intriguing that people want to see it all done in one year," she says. "If you took 12 years to get into this mess, it's going to take a while to dig out."

Sykes was working for the Defense Department comptroller when Administrator Sean O'Keefe lured her to NASA as one of two deputy CFOs in November 2002. She was confirmed to the top financial post at NASA in November 2003.

An Alaska native who fishes for salmon and halibut on frequent trips home, Sykes began her public service career with the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Subsequently, she served as an aide to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and coordinated activities to protect the state's fishing industry after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

She holds a master's degree in public administration from American University in Washington.