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Organizing for expeditionary operations--transforming headquarters financial management into the commander's A-8 staff.

Today's very complex national security environment is driving the Air Force toward new, often non-traditional military missions--regional threats, anti-terrorism actions, counter-drug operations, and homeland defense are among the many challenges we face. In this environment, a strong, flexible air and space force is an essential part of any national security strategy. To help meet our nation's global commitments in this challenging 21st Century environment, the Air Force has become an expeditionary force. Now, the Air Force must transform its headquarters staff functions to better support our expeditionary forces. What we need is a lean, efficient staff structure that is focused on supporting expeditionary operations--that means an "A-Staff" organization.

The entire Air Force team must use every opportunity to advocate and support our expeditionary requirements. It is the job of Air Force financial managers to help decision-makers at every level understand how to resource long-term warfighter requirements and ensure budgets concentrate our limited resources on the Air Force's highest priorities. At major command (MAJCOM) headquarters, an A-Staff structure ensures that warfighers remain the center of attention. Within an A-Staff, the Comptroller belongs in the "A-8" seat. The comptroller community must take the initiative to champion the transition from old MAJCOM staff structures to a warrior-oriented A-Staff with a senior financial manager serving as the commander's A-8.

A-Staff Concept

The Air Force needs a standard warrior-oriented staff structure at MAJCOM level to support and sustain our expeditionary forces. An effective headquarters staff drives our limited resources into essential warfighting capabilities, balances program risks with available funding, and promotes efficient, cost-effective operations. Put simply, a warfighting staff structure helps the Air Force maintain a robust expeditionary force structure with a minimum operating footprint using limited resources.

Beginning in October 2003, Air Mobility Command (AMC) put in place an A-staff structure specifically designed to focus the headquarters staff on warfighter requirements. That structure included an "A-8 Comptroller" organization. This new A-Staff structure was successful in streamlining core operations within the headquarters. In addition, it has proven to be extremely useful in connecting AMC headquarters functions with counterpart organizations in joint combatant commands. This figure shows how the A-Staff is organized.

From its inception, the A-Staff structure was easy to communicate to both Air Force teammates and to external organizations like USTRANSCOM and USCENTCOM. This connection has improved headquarters organizations' understanding of warfigher requirements, ensured staff decisions fully considered joint issues, and helped A-Staff functionals better support counterparts in combatant commands. From an A-8 perspective, the A-staff structure has been very effective in helping AMC financial managers build budgets and financial plans that support warrior requirements. It has also fostered abroader understanding and consideration of joint issues in the resource allocation process throughout the command. The bottom line is simple .... AMC's new A-8 organization is clearly focused on warfighter decision support.

Decision Support

The Air Force mission is to defend the nation through the control and exploitation of air and space. The core management process that identifies the resources necessary to accomplish that mission is the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS). Once the Congress has responded to the budget by authorizing and appropriating funds, our budget allocation and execution process actually puts those funds to work. Performance management is the final step that ensures effective and efficient achievement of the mission within our limited resources.

To accomplish our Air Force mission, everyone who uses appropriated funds needs to understand the annual budget request, resource allocation strategy, and execution game plan that turns programs into capabilities. The PPBS process is designed to link long-term strategic planning and programming activities with budget preparation, resource allocation decisions, and real-world financial execution. It is the responsibility of financial managers to provide effective decision support to Air Force decision-makers throughout the PPBS process. An A-Staff organization facilitates effective decision support at the MAJCOM level.

The A-Staff structure has a number of important advantages that promote integration of the strategic planning/programming activities and budget/resource allocation process. Most important, it improves the overall decision-making process within the headquarters by focusing every decision on its warfighting impact. Within the A-Staff, planning and programming elements of PPBS are led by the A-5 Plans and Programs team. However, to effectively translate warfighter requirements into capabilities in the field, the headquarters also needs a focal point for budgets and financial execution .... an A-8 Comptroller organization composed of professional financial managers. An A-8 staff, manned with trained financial managers, provides the commander with an A-Staff element specifically designed to oversee budget preparation, resource allocation, and financial execution. Ultimately, ever, element of the Air Force budget must deliver capability to our warfighters. The expertise to make that happen is what the A-8 Comptroller team delivers to the commander.

The A-5 programmers help decision-makers to evaluate program alternatives and make informed tradeoff decisions between competing mission requirements and levels of performance. The Air Force's Program Objective Memorandum (POM) documents specific programs required to execute strategic plans within clearly defined resource limitations. The POM outlines programs in terms of both performance outputs (e.g. flying hours, satellite launches, acquisition quantities, etc) and resource inputs (i.e. money and manpower), and captures this information in the Future Year Defense Program. Put simply, the A-5 organization translates plans into executable programs.

The budgeting phase of PPBS, however, belongs in A-8. Finalizing program cost estimates for the Budget Estimates Submission (BES) is best done by professional comptrollers. The purpose of the budget is to requested sufficient funds to cover every line item in the approved program. The Air Force submits its BES to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for review by the OSD Comptroller staff. After holding hearings on selected programs, OSD issues Program Budget Decisions (PBDs). The Air Force responds to PBDs through the Air Force comptroller (FM) functional chain so it is important that MAJCOM remain connected to the Pentagon's FM organization. Once signed, PBDs become the basis for the defense portion of the President's Budget (PB). Building budget justification material required by Congress is also a job for trained budgeteers.

Once Congress appropriates Air Force funds, the budget execution process begins. Budget execution is a core A-8 responsibility. The baseline for funds allocation is the PB as adjusted by Congress. The allocation process is designed to place resources where they can most efficiently and effectively accomplish the Air Force mission within the legal constraints placed on the funds by Congress. Air Force funds flow down through the comptroller chain. At each level, financial managers help their commander suballocate available resources to best accomplish assigned mission activities. At MAJCOM level, the command's A-8 Comptroller is responsible for administering the resource allocation process, monitoring funds execution, and overseeing accounting procedures that document the use of public funds.

To effectively manage Air Force resources, commanders and their A-8 Comptrollers must monitor funds execution against the annual financial plans. However, it is often necessary to move resources during the fiscal year to ensure the command's mission is successfully accomplished. Tracking financial execution is a critical decision support activity best accomplished by trained financial managers. Providing accurate funds status reports and timely analysis of operating performance and activity costs are essential to ensure limited Air Force resources are used to the best advantage. Regular financial execution reviews help evaluate performance and provide an opportunity to make timely program adjustments. This kind of decision support is core financial management; therefore, A-8 personnel must be actively engaged in this action every day to ensure public funds are wisely spent.

A-8 Organization

Across the Air Force, progressive ideas and new technologies are improving internal organizations and processes. This creates more efficient operations in both staff and field activities. The A-Staff construct provides a number of advantages over traditional MAJCOM staff organizations. One of the most important is the fact that it highlights key staff relationships.

When the A-Staff structure was implemented here at HQ AMC, the AMC Comptroller (AMC/FM) become the new AMC/A8. This change also affected subordinate staff organizations. At the 3-letter level, office symbols were converted into numeric subsets using internally consistent definitions between 2-letter and 3-letter offices. Since A-Staff structures could be implemented at other MAJCOMs in the future, standard office symbols are necessary to keep A-8 functions aligned across the Air Force. Below shows how existing FM functions fit into the A-8 substructure using this logic.

A-8 Financial Management / Comptroller (replaces FM)

A-81 FM Matrix Management (replaces FMH)

A-82 Classified Programs (replaces FMJ)

A-83 Working Capital Funds (replaces FMR)

A-84 Cost (replaces FMC)

A-85 FM Plans / FM Programs (replaces FMX and FMP)

A-86 FM Systems / Technology (replaces FMT)

A-87 Financial Services (replaces FMF)

A-88 Financial Analysis / Budget (replaces FMA and FMB)

A-89 Foreign Military Sales (replaces FMS)

A-80 Not Assigned

This accommodates most common FM subdivision. The nomenclature rule applies across A-Staff functions as well. For example, A-1 is Personnel so A-81 would be a comptroller division related to personnel--e.g., an FM matrix management home office. Since other A-Staff functions will use A-x8 for their resource management offices, Financial Analysis and Budget offices within A-8 are designated as A-88. Also, A-x7 indicates mission support functions, so A-87 is a good match for core Finance functions within the headquarters. Branches retain current letters designations in the 4-letter position--e.g., A-87D / A-87F / and A-881 / A-880.

Bottom Line

The American people will support defense budgets if they are persuaded that their tax dollars deliver necessary capabilities to our nation's warriors. An A-Staff organization is specifically designed to promote warrior-oriented decision making. For financial managers at MAJCOM level, an A-Staff structure brings a new joint perspective to decision making and effectively links warfighting requirements to the PPBS process.

At the beginning of this year, AMC reorganized its headquarters using the A-staff model. That structure included an A-8 Comptroller organization. In AMC, the A-8 is responsible for building budgets and financial plans, administering the resource allocation process, and monitoring the execution of public funds. Inherent in this process is the responsibility for providing effective decision support to AMC decision makers. The new A-Staff structure has improved decision support throughout the AMC headquarters, including budget and financial management areas handled by the A-8 Comptroller.

Since A-staff structures could be implemented Air Force wide, standard A-8 office symbols are necessary to keep like-functions aligned within the Air Force comptroller community. In addition, there is a bona fide need for placing card-carrying comptrollers in A-8 leadership positions--MAJCOM commanders need professional comptroller expertise in their A-8 leadership. What is the bottom line? The comptroller community must play a leading role in reengineering MAJCOM staff organizations around a warrior-oriented A-Staff model with solid financial management expertise built into the A-8 team from the top down.

Colonel Dave Price is the A-8 Comptroller at Air Mobility Command. Previous assignments include Deputy Director, Plans and Programs for Air Force Materiel Command; Commander, 61st Air Base Group at Los Angeles AFB; Director of Budget Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Financial Management and Comptroller); Air Force Chair and Professor of Acquisition at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces; Director of Program Control for the Satellite and Launch Control System Program Office; Director of Programs and Budget at the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center; and Comptroller of the US Logistics Group in Ankara, Turkey. He has published articles and reviews in a wide range of defense-related journals.
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Author:Price, David E.
Publication:Air Force Comptroller
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:1895
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