Assistant director and CFO, FBI, Washington, D.C.
The FBI is a great organization to be a part of and offers a nontraditional career for a CPA. How many companies train their CPAs in firearms and defensive tactics and require them to be in peak physical condition and to be available for assignment on a moment’s notice anywhere in the world? That’s just the start of it. CPAs within the FBI are assigned to a broad range of duties, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence/espionage, public corruption and corporate fraud investigations. Over my 21-year career, I have had assignments in each of those fields and served as a sniper/observer on an FBI SWAT team.
I’ve wanted to be an FBI agent since I was 5 years old. I clearly remember standing with my dad in the checkout line in a Kmart in Pittsburgh one day, and there was a book about the FBI laboratory. I was just fascinated.
My father-in-law, Layton Bowman, CPA, influenced my decision to go into accounting. I worked for his firm when I was in high school, doing everything from cleaning the office to data entry. I guess he figured he had to give me a job so I could afford to take his daughter to the movies. I married his daughter 25 years ago—easily the best decision I’ve ever made!
The FBI is a $6 billion organization with 30,000 employees worldwide. Along with our headquarters in Washington, D.C., we have 56 field offices in major U.S. cities, almost 400 resident agencies in smaller cities and towns across the nation and 60 international offices in U.S. embassies. The FBI procures more than $2 billion worth of goods and services a year and maintains a payroll in excess of $3 billion. As CFO, I meet daily with other officials on budget, procurement and accounting issues. Meetings range from daily briefings of FBI Director [Robert] Mueller and senior FBI executives, oversight of our external financial statement audit, liaison with congressional appropriators and development of a new financial management system. Days are long and full of challenges but extremely rewarding; I know that everything the FBI does to protect Americans from terrorism, espionage and criminal threats in some way touches my division.
Somewhere in my spare time I find time to compete as an Ironman triathlete. I think this “hobby” is what keeps me sane. Triathlon instills a sense of self-confidence that helps me face the challenges and opportunities life presents. An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. I work out every day, sometimes twice a day. I run very early in the morning, swim during lunch and bike after work and on weekends. It’s a way to stay young.
I was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Pittsburgh and went to high school in Mountain Home, Ark. When I was in college, I called the local FBI office and said I wanted to work for them. They told me I was too young; you have to be 23 to be an FBI agent. They told me to graduate and get a job and then call back in a couple of years, so that’s just what I did. I went to work in public accounting but never gave up my dream of becoming an FBI agent. That dream came true in January 1986 when I entered the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va.
As part of ongoing recruiting efforts, I frequently visit college campuses and speak with students. I tell them that an accounting degree opens doors to anything else you want to do. It gives you a sound business sense and develops your business acumen. Whether students choose more traditional career paths or one such as becoming an FBI special agent, a degree in accounting provides an entry into a wide variety of career opportunities.
I’ve been an agent for 21 years, and I wouldn’t trade my FBI family for anything. When you work in law enforcement or public service, it becomes your life.
Editor’s Note: After this interview was conducted, Perkins was named assistant director of the FBI’s Inspection Division, which provides independent oversight of all FBI investigative and administrative operations.