JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Lackland, Texas — Strong communication and a program to incent budget execution performance helped the Air Force exceed a goal to execute more than 83 percent of its $6.6 billion installation and mission support portfolio by the July 31 deadline.
Managed by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, the record 84.8 percent execution marks the second consecutive year the Air Force exceeded 83 percent execution in the I&MS portfolio and follows last year’s record-setting 84.4 percent execution rate, according to Col. Quy Nguyen, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center budget director.
AFIMSC budget officials and the total enterprise team of teams at 77 installations rose to the challenge as the portfolio received $1.6 billion more funding compared to fiscal 2017.
“The additional funding was welcomed, but it came, once again, late in the fiscal year and required installations to execute more to achieve the same rate of execution from last year,” Nguyen said.
In June, AFIMSC began conducting weekly reviews as the enterprise recorded an execution rate 11 percentage points behind straight line with seven weeks to go before the end of July. Straight line represents the level of execution needed on average per day to achieve the goal.
To stimulate performance, AFIMSC implemented an incentive program in early July that rewarded the top 42 installations who were leading the Air Force in execution.
“The incentive program created friendly competition across the enterprise and raised the level of performance,” Nguyen said. “Good performers lead the way and set the right example for installations to work along those lines.”
One of 42 installations that received incentive funding, Luke Air Force Base, postured itself for strong execution performance. As a result, Airmen living in dormitories at the installation will benefit from an additional $3.7 million to replace a chiller that provides cool air to dormitories.
“When we received the additional funding, there was an audible cheer from our civil engineer community,” said Col. Robert Sylvester, 56th Mission Support Group commander. “This is a huge win for our Airmen in the dorms and our CE maintainers, who had to redirect time and supplies in keeping the chiller working.”
Key to success, according to Sylvester, was Luke’s focus early on in the fiscal year to ensure a great end-of-year close out.
“We tried to prep the battlefield and had worked so much for September, that we were ready in July,” he said. “We had great dialogue among the AFIMSC Resource Management team, Detachment 7 and what we call the trifecta at Luke – civil engineer, comptroller and contracting. Locally, the trifecta meets on a regular basis, but beginning in June, they picked it up to multiple times a week.”
Sylvester credited Lt. Col. Paul Fredin, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron commander; Maj. Barbara Divine, 56th Contracting Squadron commander; and Maj. Sean Kelliher, 56th Comptroller Squadron commander; and their staffs for putting in a lot of time to ensure they had projects ready to go. He also identified strong and consistent communication between the installation and AFIMSC as key factors to his installation’s budget and execution success.
“I treated Colonel (Burke) Beaumont (AFIMSC Resources deputy director) like Tom Brady, and I wanted to be Julian Edelman – that third or fourth down go-to-guy he could count on when he needed to complete a pass,” Sylvester said. “So I communicated with him multiple times each week by email and phone.”
AFIMSC officials also established a weekly newsletter to provide updates on execution rates to senior leadership at installations. It provided another avenue for AFIMSC to provide fiscal year and funding execution hot topics and talking points important to the enterprise, Nguyen said.
“We believed providing weekly updates to the installations may be useful to them,” he said. “As it turns out, it allowed us to communicate relative installation performance to include the top 15 units as well as the bottom 15 units in the Air Force, creating friendly competition and making budget execution transparent.”
In a typical fiscal year, Congress mandates that no more than 20 percent of funding can be spent in the last two months of the fiscal year. Known as the 80/20 rule, the mandate establishes a requirement to execute 80 percent by July 31, according to Lt. Col. Anthony Smith, who recently arrived at AFIMSC to become the new budget division chief. While Congress granted relief to 75 percent due to late initial distribution, Air Force Materiel Command sets an 83-percent execution goal every year.
When AFIMSC and the installations meet or exceed execution goals, they benefit from their success, Smith said.
“Our past record of performance gave us credibility with the Air Staff and helped the enterprise to get into a battle rhythm to execute faster this year relative to prior years,” he said. “We benefitted from the success and credibility we built over the last couple years. Air Staff knew we could execute, which resulted in more Continuing Resolution authority at the start of fiscal 2018, allowing us to sprint out of gates.”
Achieving a high execution rate two months before the end of the fiscal year sets up the Air Force for a clean, accurate end-of-year closeout and a smooth glide path into next year.
“But there is still much work to do between now and Sept. 30 to successfully close the fiscal year before we start the execution cycle once again, but there is no doubt our enterprise team of teams is prepared to meet any challenge head-on and succeed. It’s in our ‘Air Force DNA’, we win,” Nguyen said.