Peterson budget: Not as simple as swiping a card

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christine Millard
  • 21st Comptroller Squadron
Happy New Year! Yes, you read that right. We just kicked off fiscal year 2017!

Little did you realize, an outstanding group of resource management professionals worked all night Sept. 30, into the wee hours of the morning to ensure proper stewardship and accounting for our fiscal year 2016 dollars. That same team processed resource documents early on the first day of the new fiscal year to ensure our contractors and mission partners were legally able to continue business as usual.

Pulling off a fiscal year-end closeout is a major feat, especially at a wing with many high-visibility mission partners. How do we get to this point each year? The budget process in itself is a cyclical process, which means we move from phase to phase within the budget cycle. When we finish one phase, we head right into the next one.

For the 21st Space Wing’s FY 2017 funding, the process actually started several years ago. We like to think of the budget and funding in the here and now timeframe; however, the first time FY 2017 was discussed was as a Future Years Defense Program year column of the FY 2012 Program Objective Memorandum. At that time, 2017 was a funding projection based on discussions of where the Department of Defense anticipated our programs to go in the future. Then there was still a lot of work to do to shape the budget submission for FY 2017.

As the budget cycle progressed year after year, 2017 came closer to reality. As a matter of fact, discussions on what the 2017 budget submission would look like took place in the summer of 2016. These discussions are typically based on a lot of planning and inputs accomplished by the professional programmers at the major command levels. Decision makers at the highest levels of the Air Force came together to shape the requirements necessary to sustain, maintain, modernize, and improve our force, including building a funding strategy for presentation to Congress for approval.

FY 2017 discussions were not complete once the President’s budget was submitted to Congress in February of 2016, as required by law. The major commands and wing levels then got a chance to internally discuss the finer details of how our funding will be spent once approved by Congress. Approximately mid-year 2016, corporate discussions were held to talk about funding strategies, what requirements are anticipated to be fully funded, and discussions of how to manage any funding shortfalls. The resulting documentation is called the Execution Plan, which details line-by-line how we use our wing-level funding to meet our mission for FY 2017.

So what is happening now with the 2017 budget? Here at the base level, we’ve just started the execution year phase. In order for the wing to legally spend money on anything from electric bills to civilian pay, Congress must pass an appropriation bill to make dollars available.

This year, as has been somewhat the situation for previous years, Congress has not yet passed the 2017 budget for Department of Defense, but instead passed a Continuing Resolution, or CR. This CR is a temporary measure that allows the government to continue operating at minimal funding levels based on prior year dollar figures. This CR is valid until Dec. 9, at which time Congress will either approve another CR, approve a budget, or allow the government to shut down operations.

There you have it. Fiscal year 2017 is upon us. While we may be in a moment of budget uncertainty with regards to our 2017 budget, one thing is always certain: We have a superior resource management team here at the 21st SW, and every one of our resource professionals can be counted on to ensure good stewardship of our taxpayers’ dollars. Way to go team and congratulations on a smooth closeout!