Fiscal Responsibility In the New Year – Every Airman’s Charge

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tyler Hess
  • 21st Comptroller Squadron

A few weeks ago we closed out a successful Fiscal Year 2018. We saw significant increases to our defense budget as the president and Congress showed their support to modernize the military, sustain ongoing readiness recovery efforts and ensure we’re prepared for future conflicts with a $654 billion budget. At the 21st Space Wing, we executed a $353 million budget by providing vital infrastructure and mission support capabilities to the wing and our mission partners and pushing resources to our space warfighters worldwide.

With a signed appropriation bill Oct. 1, for the first time in a decade and nearly a $20 billion increase to the budget defense-side, we’re ready to build on last year’s successes and get even better in fiscal year 2019. To do that, we’ll rely on every Airman to be fiscally responsible. At the national level, fiscal responsibility includes debates on spending levels, budget deficits, and the national debt as our elected officials focus on ensuring the government fulfills its Constitutional purpose. At the base level, I think fiscal responsibility is about optimizing the utilization of our budgetary resources to ensure we’re getting the most out of every dollar we spend and Airmen can help us do that in three ways.

First, Airmen should be innovative. Innovation is a fairly recent buzzword, but it’s really an application of the air power tenet of centralized command and decentralized execution and the next evolution in the Air Force’s empowerment of Airmen at the lowest level to develop and take action on ideas that help us do things more efficiently and effectively. Air Force leaders know that our freshest and best ideas will come from our next generation of Airmen. In 2018, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force developed the Squadron Innovation Fund to provide resources to the lowest level and help Airmen innovate. The 21st SW spent $450,000 on groundbreaking ideas from Airmen that will advance space warfighting capabilities and provide enhanced service to our mission support customers. We’ll receive SIF again in fiscal year 2019 and ask that Airmen engage with their leadership with their innovative ideas to identify where they need funds to implement those ideas so that we can make the most out of every dollar.

Second, units should develop plans to spend their budgets and spend to their plans. Every unit has personnel that impact budget formulation and execution and these personnel are not limited to squadron leadership. At the lowest level, Airmen need to identify requirements and estimate costs for those requirements to ensure the wing asks for the right resources as we build our budget execution plans for the next fiscal year. For funding received, personnel need to engage early and often with contracting to ensure sound acquisition strategies and execution methods are developed. Contracting personnel are force multipliers that help us receive what we really need and at the right price point, but they can’t help us if we wait until the last minute.  Additionally, Congress and the Air Force require us to obligate 50 percent of our funds by March 31 and 80 percent by July 31 each year. The better we effectively execute our spending plans to achieve those goals, the more trust our higher headquarters will have in our ability to properly manage funds. Inevitably, we’ll have a better chance of receiving additional resources to fund key requirements. 

Third, Airmen can help us with fiscal responsibility in their day-to-day efforts. All Airmen are required to file their travel vouchers within five days of returning from travel. When a voucher is paid, the cost of the temporary duty is reconciled against the initial obligation that was established when the order was created. When vouchers aren’t filed in a timely manner, these costs aren’t reconciled and it makes it much more difficult for financial management personnel to understand how much money we’ve truly spent. Therefore, we have less fidelity on how much money we have available to spend on other mission requirements. Additionally, the Air Force has a goal that no more than 2 percent of Government Travel Card charges are delinquent. When Airmen file their vouchers and ensure their GTCs are paid, they are playing a key role in ensuring we meet the Air Force metric. When we meet the metric, we receive a rebate that can be applied towards other mission requirements. In Fiscal Year 2018, the 21st SW earned over $100,000 in rebates. Finally, when Airmen go TDY they should take efforts to minimize costs such as sharing rental cars among multiple travelers and avoid making last minute travel reservations when possible.

The dollars we spend are entrusted to us by the taxpayers to provide for the defense of the country.  Every Airman practicing fiscal responsibility can help us optimize utilization of our resources and maximize the benefit of every dollar toward that defense.