AFIMSC worldwide pursues innovation, automation to streamline finance operations

  • Published
  • By Malcolm McClendon

The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s annual financial services workshop continued to standardize financial operation processes to ensure Airmen and Guardians are paid timely and accurately.  

AFIMSC welcomed more than 940 financial services professionals from the Department of the Air Force to its fifth annual Financial Services Operations Worldwide. Held virtually, the Resources Directorate Financial Operations Division hosted the event on the second week of February.

AFIMSC hosts the annual workshop to provide intermediate level command policy, procedures and standardized training to installation financial services professionals across the enterprise.

“This year’s event gave leaders at all levels a chance to learn about the future of financial services and talk about issues affecting the enterprise,” said Eric Cuebas, Air Force Accounting and Finance Office finance director. “It allowed leaders to hear, first-hand, about the issues facing the field. Ultimately, bringing the community together like this allows the sharing of ideas and best practices, which in turn means taking better care our Airmen, Guardians and their families.”

Even though attendees missed out on in-person interaction, Monica Anders, AFIMSC Resources director, said the event was a success due to the hosts using technical capabilities honed from past virtual efforts while incorporating feedback and lessons learned to deliver unique opportunities that only this event can bring.

DoD and Air Force senior leaders also attended, speaking to challenges facing the financial services community and listening to ideas from attendees. 

“The experts are in the field,” said Fredrick E. Carr, deputy assistant secretary for financial operations. “The interaction and feedback with the participants is success in itself. Whether it be how to solve an issue virtually due to COVID-19 constraints or understanding their challenges with policy or procedural changes, the implementers are the front line to sustained good stewardship.”

Each year, the FSO Worldwide provides a forum for leaders to identify talent and encourage financial service professionals to spark innovations across the enterprise. 

“At the 2018 Worldwide, I asked, ‘Why aren’t we learning ways to automate our work?’” said Master Sgt. Sam Spaethe with the Financial Management Resource Training Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. “One of the chiefs in attendance encouraged me to find a solution, so I took a week of leave and built a script to automate a certain aspect of Defense Travel System that syncs travel dates and destinations to military pay entitlements. This tool saved us 12 hours per week at Hurlburt Air Force Base, Florida, and has since been scaled to the whole enterprise, saving thousands of hours for financial management Airmen worldwide.”

Spaethe returned one year later to the 2019 FSO Worldwide as a speaker to share his innovation and train others on automation.

This year, AFIMSC introduced Robotic Process Automation.

“One of the exciting things we talked about this year was the prioritization of Robotic Process Automation in our daily efforts,” said Linda Alcala, AFIMSC’s financial operations chief. “This innovative way of doing business reduces the need to perform mundane and manual tasking, increases productivity and gives our financial management Airmen the ability to retrieve accurate data for better decision making.”

In addition to the innovations and leader discussion groups, FSO provides training and knowledge sharing on military and civilian pay, government travel card, and temporary and permanent duty assignment pay, among other topics.

“The exchange of best practices, the networking and the opportunities to develop new partnerships for future collaboration at these events is crucial in our field,” said Master Sgt. Lawrence Robinson, an inspector with the office of the Inspector General at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “In 2020, I was the NCOIC at the 633rd Comptroller Squadron, and at that year’s Worldwide I was introduced to the Resource Training Center and the Financial Information Collaboration Space website. I was able to take these new tools and guides to enhance the training of the Airmen I supervised, allowing them to better serve the 16,000 Airmen and civilians assigned to the base.”

Like Spaethe and Robinson, Air Force leadership encourages the financial services community to take advantage of what FSO Worldwide offers.

“Financial service professionals are a force multiplier, and a weapon system when operating at max capacity and capability,” Cuebas said. “Ensuring we address pay issues as expeditiously as possible or better yet, eliminating, is key to our Air and Space Forces continued dominance of the battlespace.

“And this conference does exactly that, arms our financial managers to better serve the Airmen and Guardians by giving them tools, ideas and contacts to put in their tool box, which they can use to do their jobs at the highest level possible.”

AFIMSC has hosted the FSO Worldwide since 2018 and reached more than 2,500 Airmen and Guardians.

“We are strengthening Airmen, Guardians and their families,” said Kurt Schmidbauer, AFIMSC’s Resource Management Financial Operations Branch chief. “FSO Worldwide is designed to encourage learning, foster the crossflow of information across installations, and encourage innovative solutions, all with the goal of providing timely and accurate pay.

“Financial readiness directly supports mission readiness.”