II MEF prepares for FY close out

27 Jul 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

The II Marine Expeditionary Force comptroller has a unique plan to prepare for the new fiscal year; freeze all monetary assets. That’s right—the Marine Corps’ allowance is being pulled back, but only for a few weeks.

The FY 2007 countdown starts early to make sure Marine Corps funding is on the dime when it comes to unit budgets, said Staff Sgt. Jason C. Cooper, fiscal budget chief for II MEF.

“There are two kinds of years within the Department of Defense,” said Cooper. “The first one is the calendar year, which starts in January. The second one is the fiscal year, which starts October 1.”

The beginning of the new FY means a fresh start with new appropriations from Congress, which trickle down through each department in the DoD, and eventually, individual shops within II MEF. For a short time starting in mid-September, all nonessential purchases will be put on hold while the military’s financial experts review spending.

“As we get closer to close out, contracts will have to be renewed for the fiscal year. (Units) have to get their open purchases completed so at the end of the year we know how much we spend and make sure we don’t go over,” said Cooper, clarifying that contracts include anything and everything, from training, docking of ships and periodical subscriptions.

“The goal is to spend exactly what we’ve been given and not go over,” he said.

Chief Warrant Officer Joseph E. Marker, Managerial Account Officer, II MEF Comptroller, offered tips to units who are working with last-minute reconciliations.

“We try to ensure current obligations that are in the official accounting system are accurate and correct,” said Marker. “Then we adjust those if they need to be adjusted. Then they want to get ready for any end of the year money they could possibly spend. Third, get any documents ready for when we open up so they can start business as usual with any new contracts.”

The Marine Corps, as the smallest branch of the military, works on a tight budget, which is another reason unit financial gurus take extra care to account for the monetary assets that provide their unit with mission-accomplishing tools - from pens and paper to body armor and ammunition.

“If you don’t spend it, you lose it,” said Cooper, echoing a common phrase explaining the mechanics of unit funding.

“It’s called reverted funds,” said Marker. “Any time a unit has been given money they don’t spend, they may lose that spending in the next fiscal year.

“If a unit has $50,000 in reverted funds and they have nothing to spend it on, it can be re-appropriated to another unit who needs it. That money could buy (Small Arms Protective Inserts) for a battalion or armor a humvee.

“Right now, the Marine Corps is looking to lose an estimated $30 or 40 million,” said Marker.

In spite of the uncontrollable variants and unpredictable events that may equate to time and money, it is the job of unit comptrollers to stay on top of the Corps’ money.

“Our mission is to review all records and work with contracts within the sections and make sure everything is completed by the end of the fiscal year,” explained Cooper, who admitted the end of an FY amounts to a busy time of reconciliations and accountability in his office.

“We stay busy ensuring each section has contracts and purchase requests ready to go. All the reports and any errors that do pop up in the system are fixed so the numbers match up exactly,” said Cooper.

The year end certification is then reported to higher headquarters and weighs heavily on future allotted funding, said Marker.

“It’s like balancing a personal checkbook, only on a much larger scale,” said Marker.

While money managers across the DoD work to reconcile the last 365 days of funding, Cooper reminds Marines in commands across the Corps to contact their unit comptroller with questions and concerns.

A library of message traffic and Internet resources makes financing the war a manageable task, with the help of the comptroller and a few Marines.