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Job Title:
Supervisory Accountant (Business Operations Services Lead) IS-0510, Grade 14; $138,046 - $179,462 per year*
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:


AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all eligible candidates. This vacancy position is open until filled

Note:  First consideration of candidates may be made after December 28, 2023

*Pay scale reflects CY2023 pay scale.  CY2024 pay scale is not yet finalized. 

INTRODUCTION:  The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. SAO combines its resources with those of the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA is the best-known astrophysics center in the world. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants. 

SUMMARY:  The position serves as the Business Operations and Services Team Lead at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). The Incumbent leads and coordinates all administrative operations, finance and reporting, and the implementation of strategy and priorities to support the overall day-to-day business operations.  This includes oversight of SAO travel program, procurement card program, accounts payable, payroll services, cost transfers, and the HCO/SAO rebill process. 


Accounting Services:

  • Responsible for overseeing the management of accounts, ledgers, and reporting systems, ensuring compliance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), standards and regulatory requirements. 
  • Oversees the preparation of monthly, quarterly, and annual budget reports, budget forecasts, and financial analyses. Manages monthly and fiscal year-end closing processes. 
  • Creates and prepares specialized financial reports, documents, and analyses. Reviews others’ reports for accuracy and compliance.
  • Ensures month-end closing activities, e.g., closing, billing, and payables, are completed in compliance with applicable guidelines.
  • Manages audit processes and compilation of financial statements. 
  • Manages system of internal controls and safeguards for receipt of revenue, costs, and program budgets and actual expenditures. 
  • Collaborates with financial and administrative leaders and staff across the SAO. 
  • Posting inter-unit reimbursements in the financial system (Funds 802 and 803)
  • Provides expert accounting and financial advice and counsel.
  • Supervises various accounting activities related to the daily operation of SAO, including:
    • Reviews balance sheet reconciliations and month-end close activities, e.g., closing, billing, and payables, and monthly reconciliation.
    • Ensures critical daily processes are completed accurately and on a timely basis by the accounting team.
    • Oversees financial statements and accounts to ensure accuracy.

Payroll group:

Ensures integrity and accuracy of HR/Payroll data through entry, audit, and validation, including: 

  • Ensures payroll is processed in an accurate, compliant, and timely manner. Resolves all issues related to payroll production.
  • Oversees compliance with statutory reporting and filing requirements and supports all internal and external audits related to Payroll operations.
  • Oversees and/or conducts periodic audits to confirm timely postings to the general ledger, funding for bank accounts, and reports for tax deposits.
  • Prepares materials for management and/or to meet governmental obligations, including delivery and generating disbursements, reports, and statistics. 
  • Ensures that payments comply with sponsored agreements, legislation, or other regulations.
  • Reviews purchases orders for availability and appropriateness of funds. 
  • Manages and directs the activities and staff involved in the processing of payroll, including the maintenance of employee benefits and workers' compensation records, such as: 
    • The posting to the ERP system and NFSC
    • The development and management of payroll systems hardware, and software 
    • Calculating overtime and shift payments
    • Maintaining payroll records
    • Preparing and distributing pay information to staff
    • Processing cost transfers on behalf of division administrators and the director’s office 

Fellowship (pre- and post-doctoral) and Intern Management

  • Oversee payments for postdoctoral fellows, interns, and other non-employees. 
  • Responsible for the execution, administration, and closeout of Chandra X-Ray Center [CXC] scientific observing and Einstein postdoctoral fellowship subgrants on behalf of NASA.

HCO / SAO Rebill

  • Supports the relationship with the Harvard College Observatory. Seeks and implements new structures, as needed, to ensure the smooth operation of the entire Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
  • Provides supervision of staff members responsible for ensuring timely and accurate transfer of funds between SAO and HCO, including resolving complex issues as needed.

Financial Management

  • Participate in the establishment of procedures for reviewing accounting data to provide adequate warning to the CFO and the Director of Trust Funds, OPMB, that an over-obligation or over-expenditure of funds is possible if timely corrective action is not taken.
  • Administer interagency transfer funds 119, 127, 140, and 160 as described in SD 319 (NB: IAT funds are not trust funds. For guidance on IAT funds, see Sections 3, “Definitions,” and 5, “Federal Funds”).
  • Monitors the performance of actual experienced costs of Federal Salary and Expense (S&E) Major Scientific Instrumentation (MSI) funding, contracts and grants, indirect expenses, Institution funds, Central Engineering cost center and construction, renovation, and funds.
  • Compares actual experienced costs versus the projected spending plans for stakeholders across the organization from the director’s office to individual PIs. 
  • Ensures compliance with Office of Management and Circulars A-11, A-21, A-122, A-133 and various Smithsonian Directives.
  • Oversees the compilation of documentation supporting sampled transactions, the explanation of internal controls, and the justification of local interpretation of OMB, Smithsonian, and other applicable standards, policies, and guidelines.
  • Ensures continual evolution of tools and processes to improve effectiveness across operations, including exploring new techniques and technology to improve business processes.
  • Coordinates and synthesizes financial and management data to interpret the composite financial results at all levels of the Observatory's and the Institution's management.
  • Supports COO in responding to internal and external auditors. 

Supervisory and Other Duties

  • Develops and delivers training for areas of expertise to administrative and scientific colleagues in multiple formats, from one-on-one training to classroom settings.
  • Oversees preparation and dissemination of guidance material to all key SAO personnel to inform, clarify, and explain the significant regulatory requirements, policies, procedures, and associated changes.
  • Provides overall human resources management to staff in the business services and operations section, including interviewing and hiring new team members; determining training needs and arranging for training as appropriate by planning and assigning work, setting priorities, establishing deadlines, providing follow-up, supervising day-to-day awards activities, developing performance standards, reviewing performance (probationary and annual); recommending performance awards; recommending and taking necessary disciplinary action; giving advice, counsel, and instruction to team members; and approving leave.
  • Responsible for coordinating with appropriate SAO and SI departments on enhancements to and operation of the systems and processes within their domain and maintaining communications with all Division Administrators, Program Managers, and Department Managers within SAO regarding their satisfaction with Sponsored Programs and Procurement services.


Basic Requirements

  1. Degree: accounting; or a degree in a related field such as business administration, finance, or public administration that included or was supplemented by 24 semester hours in accounting. The 24 hours may include up to 6 hours of credit in business law. (The term "accounting" means "accounting and/or auditing" in this standard. Similarly, "accountant" should be interpreted, generally, as "accountant and/or auditor.")


  1. Combination of education and experience: at least 4 years of experience in accounting, or an equivalent combination of accounting experience, college-level education, and training that provided professional accounting knowledge. The applicant's background must also include one of the following:
    1. Twenty-four semester hours in accounting or auditing courses of appropriate type and quality. This can include up to 6 hours of business law;
    2. A certificate as Certified Public Accountant or a Certified Internal Auditor, obtained through written examination; or
    3. Completion of the requirements for a degree that included substantial course work in accounting or auditing, e.g., 15 semester hours, but that does not fully satisfy the 24-semester-hour requirement of paragraph A, provided that (a) the applicant has successfully worked at the full-performance level in accounting, auditing, or a related field, e.g., valuation engineering or financial institution examining; (b) a panel of at least two higher level professional accountants or auditors has determined that the applicant has demonstrated a good knowledge of accounting and of related and underlying fields that equals in breadth, depth, currency, and level of advancement that which is normally associated with successful completion of the 4-year course of study described in paragraph A; and (c) except for literal nonconformance to the requirement of 24 semester hours in accounting, the applicant's education, training, and experience fully meet the specified requirements.

Additional Requirements:  Candidates must possess at least one year of specialized experience at or above the grade 13 level in similar positions.  Specialized experience is experience that has provided the knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully perform the work of the position.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

Deep understanding of financial and operational management, encompassing accounting, auditing, and integrating financial principles into diverse programs, systems, functions, policies, and related matters.

Mastery of and ability to apply advanced accounting principles, concepts, theories, and practices, including adherence to accounting standards. 

Demonstrated leadership capabilities, fostering collaboration and effective communication with diverse stakeholders.

Mastery of and extensive background in financial management, particularly in the context of scientific research and development programs.

Strong communication skills for articulate written and oral communication with various groups, staff, and executive management. 

Profound knowledge of regulatory frameworks, including OMB circulars, GAAP, Cost Accounting Principles, FAR, and financial management systems relevant to federal appropriations, research contracts, grants, and compliance audits.

Demonstrated expertise in negotiating overhead rates and advising clients during research contract negotiations with funding agencies, utilizing frameworks such as A-21 or A-122.

Familiarity with professional interactions involving organizations like DCAA or ONR.

Proficiency in establishing and sustaining effective working relationships across all management levels, requiring tact, creativity, and resourcefulness. 

Strong analytical skills for identifying and resolving operational challenges, project planning and execution, team leadership, technology utilization, and continuous process improvement in alignment with organizational objectives.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply please submit your resume and cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements of the position at:

The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Conditions of Employment

  • Successful completion of pre- and post-employment background investigation, as required.
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Direct Deposit/Elect Funds Transfer required for salary payment.
  • Required to file a Confidential Statement of Employment form, Sl-1085.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

Visit the SAO website at

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds supports and enhances our daily work life and contributes to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. For more information on the Smithsonian EEO program please see

Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website