JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. –
Every year in September, comptroller and contracting squadrons work long hours to close out the fiscal year with intention and precision. However, for Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., they’ve executed two consecutive years with unprecedented close-out activity.
While spending and oversight activities occur throughout the fiscal year, in the final months, the entire wing focuses on the closeout’s objective — to be a good steward of taxpayer money and ensure obligated funds are applied on time to programs and projects necessary to best meet base needs. Fiscal years 2020 and 2021 were unique for JBAB as the Air Force transitioned to the service responsible for the joint installation.
The 11th Wing was activated in a June 12, 2020, ceremony in preparation for the Air Force to take responsibility of the base from the Navy in the Department of Defense’s first ever joint base service-lead transfer. The 11th Contracting and 11th Comptroller Squadrons were subsequently activated in a ceremony June 26, 2020.
The wing entered initial operational capability phase Oct. 1, 2020, a step in becoming fully mission capable as the host wing as manning increases, equipment is added and infrastructure is improved. Wing manning increased approximately 3% per month, and the wing executed nearly $127 million in its budget in fiscal year 2021 in support of the wing and its approximately 70 mission partners in its first full year of operations. Growth continues as the wing achieves milestones to become fully operational capable by Oct. 1, 2022.
Over 50 staff in two squadrons oversee administering the money that flows into the wing. The 11th CPTS receives funds from higher headquarters and accounts for the money through their financial management analysis office. In support of this, the 11th CONS obligates these funds through contracts to meet current needs and support future base development, and they manage the government purchase card program units use to make purchases.
At year-end, contracts and unit budgets are scrubbed to see if there will be unspent funds.
Gervacio Moreno, 11th CPTS chief of budget, said previous JBAB and 11th Wing commander Col. Mike Zuhlsdorf made his vector clear to his team – to direct any unspent funds to buy what the wing needs to get to full operating capability.
The COVID-19 global pandemic contributed to significant permanent change of station challenges across the DOD, however, these impacts were exacerbated for the 11th Wing as the unit was just standing up.
“COVID derailed a lot of plans, and we had to be flexible as the situation evolved,” said Maj. Ruben Arredondo, 11th CONS commander.
The 11th CONS started the fiscal year with 17 people and doubled in size, but was only 60% manned by year end. The 11th CPTS Financial Management Analysis office finished the year with just 74% manning, and Airmen new to the budgeting process gained significant knowledge and experience. Except for Moreno, all were new to the budgeting skills a closeout requires.
Fourteen budget analysts in the 11th CPTS FMA office and 39 staff in the 11th CONS work together to obtain, assign, and aid in contracting of the funds. Both units have functions that are distinct but also complementary to manage the fiscal landscape.
The FMA analysts closely monitor and adjust accounts to accurately reflect all budget transactions, as the fiscal closeout calls for accuracy and timeliness.
“The team met wing goals despite the learning curves, staffing shortfalls and the pandemic,” said Moreno. “Stress is to be expected in a closeout. I pushed them (FMA staff) pretty hard, and the crew responded admirably and professionally.
“Everyone has a task, and each one worked to get as close as possible to 100% of the budget obligation spent,” Moreno added. “And while we were engaged in the long hours of the closeout, CONS was right there with us, each of us focused on making it a success.”
The 11th CONS, the other major player in the fiscal closeout, applies the funds to necessary contracts for the wing and subordinate units across the base.
“11th CONS has a huge role in end-of-year closeout,” said Arredondo. “We manage the wing’s government purchase card program and execute all service contracts, commodity needs, and infrastructure and facilities projects that are to be put on contract. We do this all year, but as you can imagine, the end-of-year period is more complex as we are up against the clock.”
The 11th CONS also supports mission partners to help them get their contract requirements awarded and executed prior to the end of the fiscal year.
But the largest challenge to be met, according to Arredondo, was the need to build trust and familiarity in Air Force processes to meet the needs of mission partners after the service-lead transfer from the Navy. The Air Force has different administrative processes and approaches to maintaining a base and addressing infrastructure needs, contractor support and management.
The wing initiated those relationships as they partnered closely with Navy counterparts in the fiscal 2020 closeout, and they continued building familiarity and trust throughout the following year.
“We have constant communication throughout the closeout process,” said Yancy Scott, 11th CONS director of business development, explaining how the 11th CONS, 11th CPTS and all of the squadrons make the closeout effective. “It is a marathon sprint, then a mad dash prior to (close of business) Sept. 30. We can’t do it without each other.”
Moreno said FMA regularly works with resource advisors and with the 11th CONS to make sure requirements are understood, and that this relationship building paid off when the closeout came.
In the end, Moreno said a key reason for the wing's successful closeout was the effective communication between all parties and partners: the requirements owners, the 11th CONS, and the 11th CPTS.
JBAB faced multiple challenges in fiscal 2021 in addition to growth in manning and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic to include maintaining legacy systems and facilities and ongoing construction and infrastructure work to meet long-term needs.
“The year was not a steady state, and while we are in a pretty good place, there were many unknowns,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chua, 11th CPTS commander. “What came out was how (everyone) came together.”
The wing adjusted processes in the last quarter to better enable a successful closeout. The 11th CPTS and 11th CONS met regularly with the squadrons to determine priorities and what was executable.
“CONS and the squadrons had requirements on the shelf, prioritized and ready to go; CPTS organized and ensured the funds were where they needed to be and when they needed to be there,” Arredondo said.
“The team did a phenomenal job down the stretch. We had some lessons learned, but overall, the team performed amazingly,” he added. “I believe the trust in 11th CONS and the Air Force way of doing business has been achieved.”
Overall, the actions required to perfectly execute the budget, and especially during a first ever service-lead transfer, require tedious work and careful attention to detail.
The budget administered by the 11th CPTS and the 11th CONS is funded from three sources.
Air Force Installation Management Services Center funds account for about 56% of the budget, Air Force District of Washington funds account for about 17.3% of the budget, and each are locally managed at JBAB. Civilian pay funds account for about 26.6% of the budget and are centrally managed by the office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
Consistent planning for the future and mindfulness of future budgets is necessary for continued success. A few high-priority items for future fiscal planning include purchasing vehicles for the civil engineer squadron to lessen dependence on costly vehicle leasing contracts, a new large vehicle inspection station, and a continual focus on spending requirements to maintain and improve safety, security and quality of life at JBAB.
“At the end of the day it is all about providing capabilities to JBAB and our mission partners, meeting the wing commander’s intent and falling in line with the National Security Strategy,” said Scott.