‘Public money’ equals public responsibity

Lt. Col. John Long
435th Comptroller Squadron

The 435th Comptroller Squadron is one of the largest ‘financial management’ squadrons serving one of the largest populations in the Air Force. We provide a myriad of financial services to include military/civilian pay and travel support. In Fiscal Year 2003, we served more than 54,000 customers to include Temporary Duty and Geographically Separated Units personnel.
Our goal is to provide ‘top-shelf’ service to all of our customers and for the most part, we’re successful. Whether folks are here TDY or members of the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserves or from another service, our expectation is that they are treated and supported as if they are a member of the KMC.
Getting the correct pay, on time, is important to all of us and we are always striving to improve our service. One example is providing extended hours for customer service the first Wednesday of every month.
But there is another part of our business, budget operations, that has less customer service contact, but is important just the same. For instance, last Fiscal Year 2003, the 435th Air Base Wing executed more than $375 million dollars to support the mission and people for such things as payroll, force protection, facility repairs, daily operating supplies, new tools and equipment, vehicle fuel and parts, youth and child development programs, libraries and training to name but a few. But we must never lose sight that these dollars are taxpayer dollars, ‘public money,’ which means they are our dollars, yours and mine.
As such, we all have a huge responsibility to each other and to our fellow Americans to make sure that the tax dollars they pay are used with prudence. I think the (author) Thomas Paine said it well “Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous conscientiousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty. It is drawn even from the bitterness of want and misery. Not a beggar passes, or perishes in the streets of whose mite is not in that mass.” So the next time you need to buy supplies or go TDY, remember, some of the money you are spending, is your own.
In your personal life do you look for good value or do you spend without regard to cost? When you stay in a hotel on vacation do you stay in the most expensive one? At home do you use household items as long as they are serviceable or do you go buy new ones even though the old ones still work? Spending ‘public money’ is a privilege and we should treat it as such. Public money equals public responsibility. So I would ask you the next time you spend ‘public money,’ treat it as your own and ask yourself, If I were writing the check from my own account, would I be spending these dollars the same way?