The Air Force Department has undoubtedly led the U.S. Army’s modernization push over the past few years – DAF leaders have long championed transformational changes such as computer enhancements, efforts digital transformation and advances in data. But officials argue that financial management, or FM, needs a bigger place at the table in these critical conversations.
A key priority right now for Hon. Kristy JonesAssistant Secretary for Financial Management and Comptroller at the Department of the Air Force, streamlines the notoriously difficult audit process with a more corporate approach.
“We’ve been trying to do audits for a long time — we’ve been trying to replace business systems for a long time, improve our data. Some of these challenges have taken a long time and we are not there yet,”
Business systems, Jones revealed, are often the root cause of audit challenges; some of DAF’s legacy systems are at end of life, and managers are now looking at where they can move those systems. DAF is now moving to the Department of Defense’s big data platform, Advana, and is working to eliminate some of its legacy platforms – a key effort for the service’s IT environment since its Flamethrower Operation initiative launched in 2020.
Another challenge Jones faces is the compartmentalization of financial matters, like audits and balance sheets, as something separate from the larger organization.
“A lot of people think the audit is an FM issue, but the things we’re trying to get at is where is our military equipment? What is his condition? Is it properly recorded in our books? Do we know how much ammo we have? Do we know our material which is in the inventory points of the subcontractors, or have we lost the responsibility for it? Jones explained.
“So it’s not just how to link the tickets, but it’s really what are our capabilities in terms of all these assets that we have? So it’s not an FM issue, it’s an business,” she added.
Jones joined the Air Force Department in May 2022, returning to government after spending nearly seven years in the private sector. Her vast experience in budgeting, costing, auditing, systems and more in the military, government and industry is an asset she plans to bring to bear as she brings an approach to ‘business more consistent with traditional FM challenges.
Since being confirmed in the role, Jones has released the first-ever FM strategy for the Department of the Air Force, which encompasses both the Air Force and Space Force. His three main objectives for the strategy are to develop and retain a highly qualified FM team; leverage technology, standardized processes and data analytics to improve accountability; and to optimize resources, mitigate risk and improve service to its customers.
In addition to these objectives, Jones aims to consider risk management, requirements and IT needs in how it executes FM strategy and ensures the DAF has the resources to win the future fight.
Jones admits the force has technology debt both in terms of IT, facilities and other areas. Going forward, Jones said she is working closely with the Air Force CIO. Lauren Knausenberger understand how to best resource and modernize the service without taking too many short-term risks.
“We also need to be smarter about how we spend our money in terms of IT,” she offered. Jones looks at the requirements, in particular, to identify areas where the DAF can save money, harvest it and put it towards the next big priority. Ultimately, however, the demands of the Jones service are far greater than the funding it can provide.
“There will be things we can’t get,” she shared. “How can we make informed risk decisions across the joint force and indeed across government so that we have the transformed Air Force and Space Force that the secretary heading?”
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