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AFSO 21 helps ease finance program headache

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO 21, action team discuss ways to streamline the process for the production of the annual statement of assurance.  The team used a successful eight-step method to trim a six-month process down to a two-month process.  The ideas could have possible DOD implications.  (U.S Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO 21, action team discuss ways to streamline the process for the production of the annual statement of assurance. The team used a successful eight-step method to trim a six-month process down to a two-month process. The ideas could have possible DOD implications. (U.S Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A team of experts came together this week to use the Vandenberg Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO 21, program to overcome obstacles in the Management Internal Control Program. 

The MICP came into effect during the President Reagan era and is intended to be a control on how the military spends its money. It is a tool congress uses to ensure to the general public the military is properly using tax-payer dollars. The primary product the team focused on this week is the annual statement of assurance. 

The annual statement of assurance is a signed statement by the commander stating that he has an assurance that the organization is a good steward of government funds. 

"This statement of assurance goes all the way up the chain to congress," said Julie Gil, the Management Internal Control Program manager at Air Force Space Command. "Ultimately, it is put together as an output to the public to assure them that we area spending tax-payer dollars on valid programs, people and equipment. They need to know that we are not wasting the public's money." 

The process of putting this statement of assurance together has been a dreaded process for many comptroller squadrons across the Air Force and the entire DOD. 

"It's come up among several bases and major commands that this statement of assurance has been a painstaking process in years past because nobody at the bases really knew what the intent of this product was," Ms. Gil said. "We were hearing that there was no clear guidance as to what the full meaning is behind the program." 

Vandenberg accepted, through the AFSO 21 office, the event of mapping this process out all the way from when the tasking comes down from the office of the Secretary of the Air Force and how it flows through the chain of command all the way down to the base. Then they will find out what the base does with it and follow the process of sending it back to SAF. 

"We went through all of this data and have come up with a future state that we'd like to see the process become," Ms. Gil said. 

One key element in this AFSO 21 event is the demonstration of a Navy process for this product. 

"They have an automated system they use for this program and we are looking into the idea of the Air Force adopting that idea and tweaking it to fit our needs," Ms. Gil said. "Vandenberg will be the test bed for that new process." 

Other MAJCOMs are very interested in the outcome of this event because it's very likely to have an effect on the entire Air Force and possibly beyond. That is one of the reasons the AFSO 21 event took as long as it did. 

"This is a very large event that has a DoD-wide focus," said David Marston, the Vandenberg AFSO 21 chief. "We've had some problems that we were able to solve in an hour. This particular event took the team a week." 

The AFSO 21 office provides a structured method for problem solving. It provided the structure for the team to come up with their own solution. It uses an eight-step process to map out how the team can make this process better and easier. 

"We don't give them the answers," Mr. Marston said. "We just provide them with a successful problem solving method." 

And it's that method that has shown some very promising results for a sometimes confusing process. 

"We've taken what has been measured as a six-month process and have narrowed it down to a two-month process," Mr. Marston explained. "That's a 60 percent savings. 

"We're very excited about the outcome of this event and hope it can help the Air Force and the entire DOD in the future."