NOVEMBER 27, 2018 – Team Mildenhall has been home to many upgrades over the last few years, from technological upgrades like a 3-D printer to updated building construction and renovated security throughout the entire base.
How does RAF Mildenhall get these upgrades, and who decides how the money is spent?
“The budget is the deciding factor,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Cunningham, 100th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight chief. “The budget is how we make readiness a reality. The planning starts with what the mission needs and what our Airmen need. That is how we decide what we need to spend money on, from base-wide safety to upgraded equipment.”
Airmen inform cost center managers of what they need, then they pass the information on to the resource advisors in their units. The resource advisors review the request and make sure it is a necessary expense for the mission, whether mission essential or enhancement.
“Mission essential and mission enhancement are two different things, but both are very important,” Cunningham said. “Mission essential items are those that without them would cause the mission to stop. That can vary from wrenches for maintainers to computer screens for finance.”
Mission enhancement items produce a better quality of life for the Airmen, or make mission completion a bit smoother. This includes training opportunities to help Airmen be more effective at their job, Cunningham explained.
The resource advisors always work within the unit to ensure requests are validated and necessary before giving them to the budget analysis flight within the 100th CPTS, who then verifies all requests are justified and legal. Those requests are then given to the unit commanders to prioritize what is the unit’s greatest need.
Requests are then vetted through group and the wing leaders. If funds are available within the wing’s budget, the purchase is made. If there is not enough funding at the wing, the request is submitted to MAJCOM or even Headquarters Air Force as an Unfunded Requirement (UFR). Towards the end of the fiscal year, usually late August, MAJCOMs and HAF have excess funds to send to the base for these unfunded requirements.
“We have to schedule the budget to make sure we are continuing as the number one Air Force in the world,” Cunningham said. “That is one of the most difficult aspects of budgeting — planning the unknown.”
Every year the wing plans two years down the road. Every cost center manager works with the Airmen in their respective units to decide what is needed in the coming years. These requirements are prioritized at each wing and submitted to the major commands, who refine the submissions and send to Headquarters Air Force. The Air Force budget is submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense along with the other military branches and ultimately sent to congress for approval.
Once the budget is approved by both the House and Senate, the President must sign the appropriation bill before funds are distributed to each branch and ultimately filters through the MAJCOM down to base level.
During the planning process, the 100th CPTS reviews the wing’s budget from the years prior to identify any shortcomings. Reviewing the squadron’s historical data and future missions creates a proper estimate for the upcoming budget.
“This planning goes years ahead of schedule, sometimes one year to multiyear budgeting where some projects are allocated a specific amount of money, and they have to decipher how to spend the money on their own,” Cunningham said. “Like most things, you can plan your best but emergencies do happen base-wide. For example, after the security incident that happened in 2017, we were allocated millions more in our following year’s budget to address base security.”
Even with proper planning, there is organized chaos at the financial office during the end of the fiscal year. End of year funding that was not assigned during the year must be allocated by Sept. 30, or the end of the fiscal year.
“The groundwork has to be done prior to requesting funds,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Santamaria, 100th CPTS NCO-in-charge of financial analysis. “The rules that apply with the funding request or where the money is allocated all have to follow a specific set of rules, guidelines and deadlines. Those requirements have to be met or the money will not be distributed.”
The budget is planned far in advance, but is always focused on the needs of the Airmen and the mission. The Airmen lead the innovation, which sets the financial path for the base providing a ready force and strategic forward base, projecting airpower through unrivaled air refueling across Europe and Africa.
Story by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs