Fiscal responsibility

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andrew Schliesman
  • 92nd Comptroller Squadron commander
As a comptroller I think of everything in terms of expenses to the base. When I walk into a building I can't help but think of the overhead costs (gas, electricity, depreciation, interest, insurance, repairs, etc.) necessary to maintain that building day after day. And as I observe the men and women working around the base adding so much value to the mission, I still think of the costs they will incur to the taxpayer, especially the cost of the long-term benefits they will be due at retirement.

Our KC-135s are indeed "fueling freedom," but I can't help but think about the fuel, maintenance and associated personnel costs required to keep these planes airborne. The maxim "freedom isn't free," reflects a cost in blood and treasure, and the financial cost of freedom is indeed great.

We had a historic fiscal year closeout at Fairchild AFB in FY12. We received nearly $20 million in funding for the entire unfunded requirement list, and all programmed and unprogrammed projects. Nevertheless, we must be mindful that the days of robust funding are coming to an end and find ways to operate within the funding constraints we are given. We can't assume that every fiscal year will end like this one.

Fiscal responsibility isn't just for members of the comptroller squadron. Fiscal responsibility is a concept that each of us as stewards of American taxpayer dollars has an obligation to exercise just as if we were spending our own money!

We are preached to daily about safety issues (don't drink and drive, wear your personal protective equipment if you ride motorcycles, etc.), and an aircraft safety mishap can shut down the mission of a wing temporarily. However, a financial mishap can sideline the mission too. The federal debt is over $16 trillion dollars and your personal share is approximately $51,195 -- Admiral Mike Mullen named this debt the top enemy of national security for good reason.

So what is your part in fiscal responsibility going forward? There are many ways each of us can save the taxpayer's dollars. We must use government property and resources only for official government functions, limit temporary duties to mission essential only, approve rental cars only when absolutely necessary, book on-base lodging early to avoid non-availability letters and use video teleconference technologies instead of sending individuals to expensive conferences whenever possible.

Also, remember that the national security environment is more challenging, dynamic and fluid than ever before. As a result, resource decisions are increasingly complex and providing shrewd resource decision support is the linchpin in becoming agile, lean and lethal. We must realize that the mission can only be accomplished when we have the necessary resources.

Make sure you are constantly engaged with your resource advisors, identifying unfunded requirements and ensuring these are executable as they materialize. Don't exaggerate the funding requirements of your unit. If a requirement is mission critical, fine. But don't get caught crying wolf. If a requirement is mission critical, don't assume we have to or can buy it now. Prior to sourcing any requirement, we must ensure funds are available and all fiscal regulations are complied with.

We can either come to the job as someone who manages money, or as someone who views his/her contribution as a means to strengthen the mission by employing resources the most effective way possible. Your commanders, supervisors and managers expect the latter. The good news is that the men and women serving within the Air Force have what it takes to ensure our Air Force will always be able to fly, fight and air, space and cyberspace even with our future spending constraints.