'End of year madness' is almost upon us -- again

Dianna DeLany, 71st Comptroller Squadron

Dianna DeLany, 71st Comptroller Squadron

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The madness called, "End of Year," which affects everybody involved with money, is almost upon us. Get ready to spend that fallout money.

Throughout the year Finance and your resource advisor say we don't have any money but suddenly we start telling you to spend, spend, spend. How can we not have money for temporary duties or supplies, yet, have fallout money in September?

The "budget" answer is that we have to follow the rules for using Operations and Maintenance money. Working for the Department of Defense means we can only spend the money Congress gives us from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. At exactly 00:00:01, Oct. 1, this year's money is gone. Poof. Then we start the cycle all over again.

That still doesn't explain why we don't have enough money during the year but have lots of fallout money at the end of the year. The truth is we never have enough money. The Air Force has to balance everything we need with the money we are given.

At Vance we train pilots. There is a line item in the budget that says how much it costs to train pilots. When the budget is signed and we get our money, the first thing we have to do is set aside funds for our "must pays." Those are things that directly support our mission -- payrolls, utilities, etc.

On the first of October we look into our crystal ball and predict exactly how much money we need to pay those bills through the end of September. Whatever is left is what we have to operate with for the rest of the year. We call it discretionary money. That means we have the discretion to spend it where we need it.

When we take a cut we always hit TDYs and supplies because it is easier to stop a TDY than it is to shut off the utilities.

As we get closer to the end of the year we fine tune how much those must pays really cost. Maybe we didn't work as much overtime or fill all our vacant positions so we have excess, or fallout, money. Do we know we will have fallout? Absolutely. Do we know how much? No. We won't know until September.

What made last year unique is that we won the Air Education and Training Command energy conservation award, to the tune of $1.5 million. Then, because we did such a good job of spending the money, they sent us another million dollars. You can see the evidence around the base -- new base marquees, building renovations and new furniture.

But your resource advisor is still telling you we are broke. And we are -- really. What you see is money we spent last year.

So why can't we use some of that money next year? Aren't we saving the government money by not spending everything they give us? Well -- no is the correct answer to both questions.

There are two laws that stop us. The first is the Anti-Deficiency Act and the other is the Bona Fide Needs Rule. The ADA means we have to follow three principles of the appropriations bill when spending money: purpose, time and amount. We train pilots, the purpose, this year, the time, and it will cost a set amount of money, the amount.

If we try to spend our current appropriation training a pilot next year, we commit an ADA violation. The appropriations bill tells us exactly what we are funded to do each fiscal year. The Bona Fide Needs Rule means we can only spend our money on a legitimate need of this fiscal year.

If we use money this year to buy something we need next year then we are breaking the rule. We would be spending in advance of an appropriation since Congress hasn't given us the money to buy anything next year.

It is a vicious circle. You get fallout money by not spending your money. You can't spend your money because you have to cover your bills. We didn't get enough money to begin with. And you wonder why Finance folks go crazy at the end of the year.

But that circle is exactly why we ask you for stuff that you need but can't buy because you don't have the money. Putting it on the unfunded list makes it a specific requirement of this year and you know exactly what it will cost to buy - PTA. And since it is approved by the wing commander, an unfunded requirement is a bona fide need this year.

When you hear someone comment about not having the money to do their job but they see all the construction and neat stuff being delivered, tell them we bought that stuff because we didn't want to break the law -- really.