Commentary

March 15, 2013

Sequestration is here

by Lt. Col. Michael Tatum
51 Comptroller Squadron

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — By now, most Americans are aware of America’s fiscal crisis. The national debt is at $16.5 trillion and rising. The fiscal crisis is driving the need for budget cuts across the federal government. The Defense Department makes up approximately 20 percent of the federal budget, so we should expect the DOD will have to make its fair share of budget reductions.

So exactly, what is sequestration? Sequestration is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25). It is designed to balance the federal budget by introducing an automatic process of across-the-board budget cuts.

Under sequestration, the DOD will see a seven percent reduction in its budget. These budget cuts will essentially be “peanut butter spread” across all of the accounts. When sequestration happens, the DOD budget process is essentially ignored and the budget cuts are laid in with no consideration of priorities. This means our DOD and Air Force leaders have little opportunity to provide input on where the budget is cut.

Sequestration is happening and budget cuts must be made. The DOD and Air Force officials would prefer to make budget decisions based on the Planning, Programming, Budget, Execution and System, also known as the corporate process. This system provides a more deliberative process for establishing priorities, making strategic budget decisions and documenting the rationale for those budget decisions. The PPBES process provides Air Force leaders with more influence on how these major budget reductions will impact Air Force operational capabilities.

Based on my 15 years of budgeting experience, I would like to provide three suggestions to all Airmen on how they can assist our Air Force leaders with meeting our budget challenges.

Know your wing’s mission and priorities

Each Airman should understand how their job impacts the wing’s mission and where it fits in the commander’s priorities. Once you understand how your job affects the mission, you can communicate the impact of budget reductions in your job area more effectively. This is vital in ensuring decision makers have all of the information needed to make the correct budget decisions.

Elevate funding shortfalls with mission impacts

The most effective avenue for elevating funding shortfalls is by submitting an unfunded requirement submission to your squadron commander. Unfunded requirements allow you to identify a mission requirement that has not been adequately funded. These unfunded requirements are prioritized at the wing level and then elevated to the major command for funding consideration. If you have questions about the unfunded requirements process, you can see your resource adviser or your wing budget officer.

Be prudent when spending taxpayer dollars

Last, but certainly not least, be a cost conscious user of government resources. You should treat the taxpayer’s dollars as though it is your family’s money. Do your part to conserve energy, for example, saving fuel and utilities. Also, be critical of new purchases for furniture or computers. Look for creative ways to save money, every dollar helps. The Air Force’s new vision statement, A Vision for the U.S. Air Force, states, “Every Airman should constantly look for smarter ways to do business.” Your ideas and creativity will make us a more efficient Air Force.

My three suggestions are very basic, but can render huge benefits if Airmen commit to being part of the solution to the budget challenges. The Air Force needs help to ensure these budget cuts have the least amount of impact to the Air Force’s operational capabilities. America needs help to assist with solving the $16.5 trillion debt. I encourage all Airmen to be innovative and get engaged and be part of the solution.




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