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Finance begins transformation

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 15, 2005) -- The Air Force financial management community formally kicked off the operational phase of its transformation effort Feb. 2 at a conference in San Antonio.

The conference highlighted the "six lanes" of financial transformation planned for the service in the next decade, which emphasize customer service, said Michael Montelongo, assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller.

"The conference is symbolic in a way," he said. "We effectively dropped the gavel of change from strategic planning to what we call the operational phase of transformation. Primarily, that means the kickoff of the implementation of our service delivery model."

The six lanes of transformation are:

• Restructuring financial services.

• Enhancing resource adviser positions.

• Developing a cost analysis center of expertise.

• Enhancing support to warfighters.

• Restructuring Air Staff-level budget processes.

• Developing a training mechanism to support the transformation effort.

Financial services is the area Airmen perhaps are most familiar with. This is where transactions occur. A "transaction" is the series of paperwork and button-pushing events when an Airman needs just about anything done at his or her base finance office. A transaction could be the filing of a travel voucher, adjusting an allotment or correcting a pay error. It is the processing of these transactions, said Roger Bick, director of financial management strategic planning and transformation, where the Air Force financial management community starts its transformation efforts.

"If you leave base housing, a form is taken to finance (specialists) so they can start your basic allowance for housing," Mr. Bick said. "That's a transaction. We want to systemically evolve those processes. Instead, housing (officials) could put a code into a computer when you leave, and then a form wouldn’t be hand carried anywhere. That reduces the cost to our Air Force."

Relationships between the finance office and other Air Force communities are also ripe for development, Mr. Bick said.

"You may go into (the finance office) because you are short $100 in your paycheck," he said. "They'll tell you it's because the personnel system didn't do 'X' -- perhaps they didn't start your entitlement. You say ‘thank you’ and go to personnel. You stand in the personnel line, and they tell you to check with finance.

“Such a runaround is not uncommon,” Mr. Bick said.

"It happens to a whole lot of people," he said. "That's a 'stovepipe,' where communities in the Air Force look amongst their own and don't cross-correlate with each other to best serve the customer.

“Because we have grown inside our own communities, we haven't evolved as quickly as we could have if we had worked together a long time ago," he said.

Streamlining shop-to-shop processes and transactions is only part of the solution, Mr. Bick said. Also on the agenda is the development of finance call centers where Airmen can ask questions and get most of their financial issues resolved. Those call centers would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"In the future, we expect finance and personnel to be together when it makes sense," he said. "In the call center, personnel (officials) might be right there with us.”

“Many transactions happening in today's finance office would disappear in the future,” Mr. Bick said. “Online systems like MyPay, Leave Web and Virtual (Military Personnel Flight) already allow Airmen to handle many of their needs from any computer with an Internet connection.

“Systems take time to evolve, but we are very much committed to moving toward a common goal," he said.

With call centers, Airmen may never have to see the inside of a finance office again. That, Mr. Bick said, frees them from standing in line and allows them to spend more time on mission requirements.