Update to 459th Military Pay Office

  • Published
  • By Col. William T. Cahoon
  • 459 ARW Commander
There is a valid, great concern in the 459th Air Refueling Wing about the ability of the Military Pay Office (MPO) to pay our members in a timely, accurate manner. I do not want wing members to think that this concern has been ignored, or that it will never get better. Both could not be farther from the truth. There is good reason why we got to where we are and good news on where we are going.

Good people work in our Finance Office, but they have had too much work to do for too long with limited full-time staffing to do it the way it should be done every time. Many years ago the Air Force Reserve decided to distribute Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) pay servicing around the country to Reserve wing MPOs. When that happened, they did not add any additional full-time authorizations to those offices. In most cases, there was not a significant increase in customers to be served by those offices. However, the Andrews MPO, being that it sits in Washington, DC, picked up responsibility for nearly 1500 due to the many IMAs assigned to the Pentagon.

For a while, we were able to support that increased load with a lot of work-arounds, but eventually that construct began to fall apart. A year ago we were down to one of our Traditional Reservists working on mandays doing Mil Pay until we could fill at least one of the three authorized civilian positions which had been vacant for a long time. We did finally get that one person, Susan Messer. However that was not nearly enough to satisfy the demand and Susan needed time to learn the business.

About that same time, we had a Staff Assistance Visit from 4AF.They confirmed what we knew, that much needed to be fixed in the MPO, but we did not have the personnel resources to do so. We did not even have a Financial Management supervisor for nearly six months. Finally in late spring, we hired Ms Lashanda Jones to become our new FM Supervisor. It is very difficult to hire ARTs and Civil Service employees at Andrews, but we continue to work the problem, and we are making progress. Lashanda is learning the unique aspects of Reserve FM business, but that is taking time as well.

Shortly after bringing Lashanda on board we underwent the Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI) in June. Once again, the Inspector General confirmed what we already knew, but had little power to improve. We continued to endure while we asked AFRC for assistance. Finally, in Nov we conducted a 459th "Finance Issues Summit" , and we had representatives from AFRC, 4AF, and the 316th Comptroller Squadron join us for a week to analyze our multiple issues, and make recommendations to fix them.

We now are on the cusp of noticeable improvement.  Last Week, AFRC representatives came to visit, and when they left we no longer have any IMAs to service! Just like that, over night we have cut our MPO customer service base in half! Secondly, we hired Mr David Jamison in Nov and he completed his in-processing and wing training in December, and is now at Hurlburt Field going through hands-on training and indoctrination in Reserve pay processing. When he returns in mid-January, he will begin processing our pay along with Susan. David has prior military pay experience, and he should be a big addition to our staff. Next, we have our third Mil Pay Tech hired, and she should join us in mid-February. That will make us fully manned in the MPO! Something we have not seen for a long time around here.

Furthermore, you may have seen Technical Sergeant John Wallace working in the MPO. T Wallace, a member of our Aeromedical Squadron, works voluntarily in the MPO on mandays as a Customer Service Liaison, a position we created to ensure we dealt with our customers in a consistent, predictable manner. He helps us to standardize how we gather and document information on pay problems, and with that the MPO can more easily and quickly address and hopefully solve those problems. Lastly, our Wing Process Manager, Capt Joy Atkins, has been tasked to provide assistance to the FM staff, and Military Pay in particular, in prioritizing, planning and executing many of the recommendations presented by the Finance Issues Summit.

The FM staff is working hard under difficult circumstances to carry out their many duties. We will ensure that they get the additional staff members they deserve to carry out those duties in the most effective way possible. We will ensure they get the training needed to further enhance their knowledge and skill and we will ensure their processes serve their needs and ours.

I could go on and on, but it is not necessary. I reassure you we are doing all we can to make this better, and you will see significant improvement in mil pay processing in one to two months; however, it will take another three to six months to realize the majority of the benefit of all the many steps planned for all FM processes.