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Monday, June 02, 2008

Commentary: Wartime financial management

Wartime financial management is arguably a Defense Department comptroller’s highest calling. As the global war on terrorism continues against a backdrop of numerous economic pressures, the mettle of those holding the checkbooks of our nation’s armed services is being tested as never before. The confluence of shrinking defense dollars, increased operations tempo and continued commitment to transparency in all we do has introduced challenges previous generations of financial managers could not have imagined.

The fiduciary responsibilities of our profession are significant. Air Force financial managers have a moral imperative to do right not only by airmen and their families, but also by U.S. taxpayers. Title 10 of U.S. Code, as well as the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act, mandates that federal financial managers use timely, reliable, and comprehensive financial information when making decisions which have an impact on citizens’ lives and livelihood. Since clearly our national defense meets these criteria, sound financial management is a matter of military readiness.

Indeed, the secretary of the Air Force himself chairs a monthly meeting whose purpose is to harmonize data and processes across the entire service to better provide Air Force leadership accurate, timely and reliable information on which to base decisions. One could thus argue that attaining an unqualified audit opinion is a byproduct of such an initiative. After all, to be meaningful, the rendering of an audit opinion is an annual occurrence, not a one-time event.

Given our responsibilities to our people and the taxpayers, we must have the self-discipline to take a hard look at our own processes and find smarter ways to do business. The Air Force Financial Services Center, the Cost and Economics Center of Expertise and the massive overhaul of our financial management curriculum are but some examples of moving our people out of a transactional mind-set and into one of decision support, all while creating efficiencies that deliver resources to where they matter most: the war fight.

Seldom has military comptrollership been as challenging or rewarding. Through sound leadership, continuous process improvement, and transparency in all we do, Air Force financial managers continue to play a central part in our ability to not only prosecute and win the conflict of the present, but also ensure continued dominance in air, space and cyberspace, well into the future.

-John Vonglis, U. S. Air Force principal deputy assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller, published on FederalTimes.com

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