Fana Daley

How do you support NNSA? 
I am currently the NNSA Budget Deputy where we manage the full lifecycle of NNSA program funding. We build the official budget documents and justifications that are submitted by the Office of Management and Budget to Congress to request funding for NNSA programs. We also lead the financial processes that make those financial resources available to NNSA programs and contractors once Congress passes funding bills; and do cost estimating, analyses of alternatives, and analytical modeling to advise on acquisition approaches and accurate, risk-informed funding profiles. We oversee the accounting and expenditure of funding to ensure efficient and compliant standards for managing those funds. And we provide transparent access to all of this vetted financial data for program management decision-making.

What is your personal background, and how has that shaped you and your approach to your career? 
I always say that my life has straddled many different worlds, so I approach my career with curiosity, a team mentality, and I hope, some courage. I grew up in a close-knit Ethiopian immigrant community, which required honing my communication skills and bridging the worlds inside and outside my home. The Ethiopian community also formed the foundation of my love for teamwork because our families depended on each other. Growing up in Oakland, California at a time when it was labeled in the media as the most diverse city in America cultivated an appreciation for both finding commonality with my peers, while also respecting their unique cultural aspects. I approach my career with empathy and structure embracing a strong work ethic but acknowledging that I build on the foundation of those who came before me personally and professionally.

What did you study in school and how did it impact you personally and professionally?
I studied environmental science and public policy and environmental engineering at Harvard and Johns Hopkins respectively. I like to say I was 20 years early to the green economy. I studied technological and policy solutions to alleviating both the human contribution to climate change and the climate change impacts to humans. This included a focus on securing food supply and freshwater resources for all populations. Personally, it reinforced my immense respect for duality of the natural word, its resilience and delicacy. Professionally, it reinforced the centrality of technology, scientific inquiry, and data sharing to problem solving around improving the human condition.

What led you to a career in nuclear security?
I came to nuclear security as a staff environmental scientist at Oakland Operations Office working on waste cleanup contracts and then entered the facility representative training program when NNSA was established in 2001. From there, I went to Parsons Engineering for a couple years to work on DOE and DoD contracts. I returned to NNSA because its diverse opportunities and the mission. It is just too interesting.

What is the best part about your job?
The people are the best part of my job. I like problem solving, continuous learning, and new ideas. My coworkers make me smarter, and I hope I return the favor. An equal to the people though is the oath we take to the Constitution. The sense of purpose and mission inspires me.

What is your proudest accomplishment while working at (supporting) NNSA?
My proudest accomplishment was the establishment of the Office of Cost Policy and Analysis within the Office of Defense Programs. As the Director of that office, it started with the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs recruiting me from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and I built that office with the support of my Defense Programs colleagues and the vision of the original members of that office. With pride, it was swept up in the 2019 Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Realignment and the whole office repurposed to serve all of NNSA.

Tell us something interesting about yourself. 
Competitive rowing has been central to my life ever since I competed at Harvard as an undergrad. But what a lot of people don’t know is that I was a thespian as well. I performed for much of my childhood at the New Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA. Eventually, I chose to focus on athletics as the demands of both were unmanageable in college.

Do you have any highlights from your time supporting NNSA? 
A highlight of my time in NNSA was the opportunity to attend the National War College in 2016-2017. It was an unmatched learning experience that made my career richer.

What advice would you have for anyone interested in a career in nuclear security? 
For people interested in any career, I would advise acquiring and building skills early on and taking opportunities to learn through new assignments. I would not necessarily jump around a lot but take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills and take on leadership opportunities, even small ones, early on will help to hone your style and give you immediate feedback on yourself. And for all technology fields it is important to maintain an open mind and fresh curiosity. Even with the tyranny of one’s experiences and daily lists bearing down, it is important to maintain that curiosity and seek new challenges.

Since it’s Women’s History Month, is there a woman in history or in your life that has inspired you?
My mother continues to be an inspiration for me. A true servant leader. She came to this country with no safety net and became a leader in her community. She was on the church board for 30 years, financed the purchase of two Ethiopian Orthodox churches, helped many members of the community find employment or navigate the immigration and housing systems, and supported her mother when she came to this country and started her own Ethiopian honeywine business, which thrived for 25 years. Meanwhile, her professional success as a computer programmer, project manager, and eventually the North American Chief Information Officer for the Singaporean shipping company Orient Overseas Container Line meant I had a professional mentor before I ever entered the workforce. She is a force whose lessons on careers and life have aged as beautifully as she has.