By Maj. Jolene Bottor Ortiona and Capt. Kristin Mack, Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2016
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga -- Regulating money and deciding where it should be used is a challenging process, but it is one the A8 directorate focuses on every day. A8PE balances a five billion dollar budget every year and A8PB has the task of deciding which current and future missions are going to continue to receive that money. They both have to plan, allocate and justify the use of Air Force funding and mission requirements.
A8PE uses a broad system of checks and balances to oversee the money in the command and program it towards the appropriate efforts.
“Their most important thing is to ensure resources are properly assigned so we can fund missions and ensure we are able to meet the commitments made to overall national strategy,” said Col. Kenneth Ostrat, Chief Programs Division, A5/A8P.
A8PE is responsible for funding every division and directorate within Air Force Reserve Command. Their main focus is the Program Objective Memorandum process, which is where the office builds proposals illustrating to the Air Force how they intend to allocate available resources over the course of the current two years and the next four years thereafter. This is also known as the Future Years Defense Program.
“Every year, the Air Force allows us to reallocate funds as the Air Force structure changes requirements,” said Jeff Swanson, Program Analyst, A8PE. “We must move resources properly so the Airmen can do their job.”
Although sometimes the results of their input and where funding is approved may come as a surprise, the process they follow to get there isn’t. This coordinated effort touches the same offices and avenues each year.
The recommendation process is always looking into the future. The POM process works two years in advance. For instance, this year they are budgeting for 2018. It is initiated in August every year with a collection of issues, site visits and the beginning of the justification process.
Once A8PE has their recommendations in place, they have to get approval from Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, Air Force Reserve Commander. After Lt. Gen. Miller approves it, it is presented to the Air Force in the spring.
At the Air Force Level, all MAJCOM options are reviewed by an O-6 representative from each major command at the Group, a 2-star review occurs at the Board, a 3-star review at the Council level, and finally it is approved by the CSAF and SECAF. Once the POM is approved by the Air Force, it goes on to Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), then to Congress, and finally signed by the President the following February when it is released to the public.
“When you know, we know,” said Swanson. “The president announces the budget results at the same time to everyone.”
Obviously such a large feat as this doesn’t come without any challenges.
“The most challenging part of our job is the number of disconnects we have, and the struggle for resources for our programs,” said Swanson. “We have more programs than we have resources so we have to decide which programs stay and which ones go. We come very prepared when it is time to ask for funds, or move around funds for our programs. The commander makes the ultimate decision.”
“We are constantly defending the resources,” Swanson added. “If we don’t justify our funding needs it can be taken away. During sequestration, the Air Force lost ten billion dollars in 2015.”
Even though some individuals perceive them as the bad guys, Swanson emphasized that they really do care and do their best to get the money where it should be to allow the Air Force Reserve to function at its maximum performance based on their resources.
“The most rewarding part of this position is when we program the money to truly support the wing’s needs and we get it right,” said Swanson. “The directorate has worked for several years to move manpower and money into the proper positions so units have the resources that they need, when and where they need it. When we do our job well, the units can focus on their mission.”
While A8PE is justifying the budget, A8PB is using that budget to make decisions that affect people’s lives. They have the tough task of deciding the fate of current and future missions.
Strategic basing evaluates real-world merits of bases and where it would be good to move and stand-up missions.
“We are the linchpin for future strategy. We are responsible for planning and executing that strategy before it becomes operational reality,” said Daniel Rhoades, Chief Strategic Basing & Total Force Integration, A8PB. “We have to focus limited resources in the right location, while simultaneously aligning with the overarching Air Force mission and viewpoint.”
It isn’t always easy trying to align everyone’s goals. The Air Force Reserve has a role in the arena of every MAJCOM, with missions across the full spectrum of functions.
“Making sure there are airplanes in the air and buildings on bases is a kind of weird and different mission,” said Col Ken Ostrat, Chief Programs Division, A5/A8P. “Most people don’t dwell on that aspect of their job because it is more of the business arm of the force.”
The best part of the job is standing up new units because everyone loves new missions and new resources.
“If we are unknown, then we are doing it right. It should be seamless,” said Ostrat.
In a time of fiscal restraint, Strategic Basing is unfortunately sometimes the bearer of bad news.
“The hardest part of the mission is during a drawdown,” said Rhoades. “During the process we make sure Airmen and their families are taken care of. We want to retain their expertise and use their skills, but we try to do it with eloquence and concern because we really care about the people we are impacting.”
In addition to basing, one of the things this directorate takes care of that people may not be aware of is their role in the Total Force Continuum.
TFC is an Air Force led effort to respond to Congress on how the Air Force Reserve can and will be integrated into all mission sets within the active duty Air Force.
“The Reserve and Guard are more operational than they have ever been. It is a way to look at funding streams and effectively find ways to operate together within the battle space,” said Rhoades. “There are more requirements than we have people and resources to fill. In the future we will continue to see dramatic changes in how the Air Force executes its mission because the resources don’t exist. Inevitably there will be functions that win and functions that lose.”
Between their efforts with Strategic Basing, TFC and the POM process, the A8 directorate is keeping busy.
“The people here are so very knowledgeable, the team is what makes the organization good,” said Ostrat.