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News > Commentary - Setting a financial 'tone from the top'
Maj. Frank T. Skrypak, 65th Comptroller Flight commander
Maj. Frank T. Skrypak, 65th Comptroller Flight commander (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Setting a financial 'tone from the top'

Posted 1/15/2013   Updated 1/17/2013 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Maj. Frank T. Skrypak
65th Comptroller Flight commander

1/15/2013 - LAJES FIELD, Azores -- It has been said that no one can accurately predict where the U.S. military will need to respond next: the workload and requirements are uncertain. Nearly as unpredictable is the future of the nation's finances. With much talk of the fiscal cliff in the news recently, how quickly can the U.S. economy recover, and what will happen to the global economy?
After Social Security, Defense is the largest component of the nation's 2013 $3.8 trillion budget, so Defense will always be influenced by the overall financial situation. The Secretary of Defense notes, "The most immediate threat to our ability to achieve our mission is fiscal uncertainty, not knowing what our budget will be, not knowing if our budget will be drastically cut, and not knowing whether the strategy that we've put in place can survive."

Even at base level, our ability to continue to execute our mission with excellence is directly related to how we manage our precious resources. While it is clear we will have fewer resources available in the future, it becomes absolutely paramount that we use those resources wisely without a penny to waste. We must develop warriors who help change our organization from a culture that values spending every dollar to one that values cost awareness and best value.

In other words, an overemphasis currently exists on securing funding versus managing funding. Moving forward, we're challenged by our government and our nation to better manage funding. Meeting that challenge starts with a mindset that the financial community calls a "Tone at the Top," characterized by a commitment towards openness, honesty, integrity and ethical behavior. Setting that tone is the catalyst of fiscal responsibility required at all levels of Air Force leadership, and is enforceable by every Airman.

When implemented successfully, we begin to ask how much we need rather than how much funding we can get. A culture of savings and restraint is built on the idea that reducing costs is a permanent, unwavering commitment, not a reaction to the latest financial crisis.

So, it might seem like hard work to implement and maintain a focused program on fiscal responsibility because many of us in the Air Force have never had to operate in an environment of real budget reductions. Those who have been through the experience must teach the future warriors how to navigate through this new set of challenges.
Additionally, each of us already has the tools required to make a difference. Those tools are our powers of observation and a willingness to question the costs of the things we observe.

For example, needlessly duplicating what another unit, program or department buys doesn't have to be the default answer. Consider it your duty to question why things are needed, know your programs to understand the context of its cost, and entertain the notion that there might be a cost effective alternative. The goal is to maximize return on investment. Examples of fiscal responsibility are out there, from challenging AFIs to gain efficiencies in services to developing unit-level travel policies, we have the opportunity to step up and help ourselves.

As leaders at all levels move into the future with an increased national and Air Force-level focus on fiscal responsibility, know that comptroller professionals are at your service. Our budget and financial management functions are fully equipped and trained to help units manage and execute well-planned, effective and responsible budgets.

So, set the "tone at the top" of your organization and embrace the fiscal challenges and opportunities ahead of us as an Air Force. With the right mindset and plan in place, fiscal responsibility and flexibility can truly go hand-in-hand.

2/4/2013 8:37:02 AM ET
If you are serious then extend the contract on the F15 and F16 aircraft and limit the buy on the F35 as you are throwing money at something that will never be what they originally intended it to be. The Silent Egale is a much better bang for the bucks since the F15E is already in production. Limit the amount of flying that is done and utilize the simulators upgrade them if necessary so they are more difficult to fly then an actual aircraft so you will get better thraining then flying the actual aircraft. Look at privatizing bases that are support bases like Davis-Monthan. A private company could make billions from the aircraft and support equipment that is turned in for storage or disposal down there. The metals contained inside most modern aircraft and engines is worth recycling if not shreaded in bulk which AMARG sometimes does. training for most specilties could be done at the Depots either Tinker or Hill which has experts with years of experience to train young airmen with utilize
SNCO Ret 89, SW Ohio
1/26/2013 8:28:03 AM ET
Excellent read sir I wonder if our obvious shortage of resources will help change the culture of us being forced to buy high. I'm referring to the Gov Contracted air travel that costs double the norm and also having to buy the inferior JWOD GSA products for higher than most. Hopefully we can change that as our resources change.
Dave Brett, Florida
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