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Commentary | Feb. 28, 2012

What can you do to stretch yourself and your budget?

By Lt. Col. Timothy Kodama 633rd Comptroller Squadron

A previous wing command chief of mine always carried rubber bands in his pocket. He used them as a visual aid when he talked to young Airmen to demonstrate how you as an Airman will be stretched... challenged to do great things.

As an installation comptroller over the past several years, the typical budget story for me at the beginning of the fiscal year was to advise installation leadership on the need to tighten our belts and ensure we are spending our dollars wisely. In the same breath, I was always confident major command would cover our shortfalls to keep the installation operational.

Over the years, each of us has always worked diligently to achieve cost-effective ways to stretch our taxpayers' dollars in order to streamline and enhance our mission capabilities. Typically, it was through innovation and technology, where there was an upfront cost which would be paid back over a short amount of time due to the cost savings. Examples of this are installing and utilizing energy efficient equipment, or implementing automated administrative systems.

Today, it is very evident that we are in a different fiscal environment. It is all across the media, and federal funding cuts are happening all around us. For the Department of Defense workforce, military and civilians, we are being stretched and challenged to find ways to further the cause of being good stewards of our tax payers' dollars.

So what can you do? As your commanders and directors are focused on big-picture, cost-effective measures, you can try to find your own efficiencies within your scope of responsibility.

One example is to maximize keeping paperwork electronically instead of printing every document. This will reduce the amount of paper and toner cartridges, and in turn, cost savings.

Another basic example is turning off your office lights at the end of the day; maybe even in your section if you're the last person to leave. Other ideas could be emptying your trash can into a centralized dumpster which could cut down on the installation's custodial contract.

These are obvious cost saving methods; at the same time, there are probably more basic actions that everyone could do to increase potential savings. You may be doing these actions already. If so, encourage your co-workers to do the same. If not, look around and see what you can contribute to make your processes and workplace more cost effective.

There may be limiting factors of why we need to do things a certain way. In some processes, we still need to maintain sound, internal controls and separation of duties to prevent fraud, waste and abuse; thus, we need to continue to look elsewhere to find cost savings.

Furthermore, we must adjust our approach to execute our missions at Joint Base Langley-Eustis as resources become limited. No matter what rank or responsibility, everyone must recognize how critical their role is as we are being "stretched" as good stewards of taxpayers' dollars.