Uncertainties leave fiscal challenges ahead

  • Published
  • By Maj. Yolanda Taylor
  • 17th Comptroller Squadron Commander
During this time of national fiscal uncertainties and increased budget reductions across the Department of Defense, we can no longer afford to rely on inaccurate estimates, count on robust funding and bountiful year-end closeouts. The command is facing a $40 million risk for fiscal year 2012, and as ambassadors of government funds, solid requirements are a must.

We can no longer conduct business in the same manner as we have in the past. Fiscal year 2012 is the beginning of some severe fiscal challenges. The concept of "Do More with Less" not only applies to manpower, it also impacts the checkbook of our taxpayers. Consequently, this is OUR new reality. The bottom line is we must determine Goodfellow's overall mission and identify our core (mission critical), and mission essential requirements. What are the core and mission essential programs that must be funded to meet Team Goodfellow's mission objectives?

As most of you are aware, when we talk "Core Mission" we are talking about the "minimum must have resources to accomplish our mission. Mission failure results in loss of production, or the ability to directly support production." When looking at "Mission Essential" these are resources necessary to continue to accomplish our mission. While short term "work-around" actions may temporarily defer the need, mission degradation will occur, and ultimately, mission failure will likely result due to prolonged or continued deferral. The bottom-line is we have to focus on our core and essential mission. We have to translate our mission into solid, justifiable requirements ... not mere wags of what we predict it will cost.

As we look at past practices in managing contracts, we believed we could "protect" funds by loading dollars against our large contract lines in hopes that they would not get cut. However, Services contract dollars rose from 26 percent in fiscal year 2000 to 39 percent in fiscal year 2009. The President's Memorandum of Government Contracting (dated March 2009) stated the Federal Government "should perform its functions efficiently and effectively while ensuring that its actions result in the best value for the taxpayers." As a result, DOD was directed in Fiscal Year 2010 to implement a contractor-to-civilian conversion thus reducing the proportion of contractor funding by 13 percent for Service contracts and taking Services back to the fiscal year 2000 levels. The only contractors that were somewhat protected were the Advisory and Assistance Services and the Federally Funded Research and Development contractors.
With this temporary fix, we were able to garner a few civilian positions on our books; however, the current hiring freeze and civilian hiring controls have placed constraints on our ability to sustain our civilian workforce capability, and we're faced with a reduction to our civilian personnel.

Historically, we have been able to use residual civilian pay dollars to fund critical shortfalls or wish list items at the end of the fiscal year; this is no longer the case because civilian pay will be centrally managed at Air Staff beginning fiscal year 2012. The residual funds generated throughout the fiscal year due to vacant or unfilled positions will be sent back to Air Staff for more critical Air Force requirements.

Furthermore, our flexibility and use of a commander's withhold is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Comptrollers will no longer be the "HERO" at the end of the fiscal year rushing in at the final hour finding money for last-minute requirements. With this in mind, WE can all be that hero throughout the year. It is imperative that we scrub our books: outstanding travel orders, dormant commitments and obligations, as well as open contracts must be reviewed monthly, at a minimum. Let's look at each of these areas individually.

Travel Orders
Travel orders are simply estimates. Once a member completes travel, a travel voucher is filed. There may or may not be residual dollars once a voucher is actually filed, but reality is every member is required to file a voucher within five days of their return -- every dollar counts. The larger dollar amounts come from those temporary duties that are cancelled but never removed from the system.

Dormant Commitments/Obligations
We must take the time to determine whether or not old commitments are still valid requirements. If the need is no longer there, have the funds de-committed for other priorities. In regards to obligations, look at contracts that have been fully executed to see if there are residual dollars and work with contracting to de-obligate those funds.

Open Contracts
The key here is to realize contract reductions early, and avoid waiting until the last minute. Each contract owner should be monitoring the execution rates of their contracts and should be able to predict the amount of any residual funds. It is the responsibility of the contract owner to work with contracting to request a modification of the contract if excess funds are identified.

These three areas may be the answer to funding a critical unfunded requirement for your organization, or perhaps or more importantly for the Wing.

Finally, we all have to work together as a team and get out of the old mindset of: "If I don't spend all of my money this year, it will not look good and I will not get the same level of funding next year." The reality is funding will be based on solid mission requirements, and we must look at more creative and efficient ways to effectively execute Goodfellow's mission with the limited funds that will be available.