DFAS serves 21st Century Airmen

Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Brown visited Defense Finance and Accounting Service headquarters here Sept. 16, 2015, during the agency’s annual business meeting to speak about 21st Century Airmen and how DFAS could help service today’s generation.

Teresa McKay, DFAS director, invited the general to an assembled group of DFAS leaders to speak about the agency’s relationship with one of its’ primary military customers – the U.S. Air Force and its Airmen.

Currently serving as the 2nd Air Force commander, the general is responsible for all operational aspects of Basic Military Training, initial skills training, and advanced technical training for the U.S. Air Force enlisted force and support officers.  Second Air Force graduates more than 150,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and international students annually.

“Those are (DFAS’) customers; those are the folks that you service so well and that I am so honored to lead,” said the commander in his opening remarks. “One hundred and fifty thousand new Airman every year graduate from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas … prepared to take our United States Air Force faster, farther and higher than it’s ever been in our nation’s history.”

Brown’s background is primarily in the finance field; having previously served as the Air Mobility Command Comptroller and Financial Management director. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Air Force Materiel Command Comptroller with responsibility for 38 percent of the Air Force budget, totaling approximately $60 billion.

He spoke about transitioning from that job into his current command and the initial remarks about the ‘Me Generation’ he would be dealing with.

“When I first came into this job, I heard quite a bit about the 21st Century Airman, and not all of it was positive. They’re born of a digital age, and you’ve got to get ready to lead them,” he said. “The 21st Century Airman wants the world at his or her fingertips and, frankly, for the social aspects of their life, that’s where it already is.

“Their expectation is that their business is conducted with the same tools that they use to socialize. Today’s Airmen gain insight through headlines and instant messaging; they don’t watch the 6 o’clock news, they have the news all day long, whenever they want it,” he said. “To them the value of time is immeasurable in a society where any piece of information you want can be found within seconds. If you want to service them, you have to reach them on their turf. Their turf exists in cyberspace. While abstract to us, it’s a daily reaction, a daily reality to our Airmen. “

Brown shared that in today’s Air Force training schools, instead of binders, crew chiefs’ technical  orders are now available on iPads; career development courses can be downloaded to iPhones; and leave and earning statements that used to be issued on deployment lines are more readily available online.

The general said that technology is not the only thing setting the 21st Century Airman apart from earlier generations. “As society at large becomes more diverse,” he said. “So have we.”

That diversity is present in DFAS’ employees and customers every day. With about 12,000 Department of Defense civilian and military personnel at work at 10 DFAS locations throughout the United States, Europe and the Pacific, they are responsible for 1,232 active DoD appropriations. DFAS is the trust fund manager for $403 billion in foreign military sales and $700 billion in military retirement and health benefit funds.

The agency leads the DoD’s day-to-day accounting and finance activities, disbursing more than $579 billion annually by processing 161.8 million pay transactions for 6.6 million military personnel, federal civilian employees, military retirees and annuitants; 10.3 million commercial invoices; and 6 million travel vouchers and settlements.

Brown said this is why it was so important to him to make the trip to speak to DFAS leadership – because DFAS is such an important organization.

If there’s any organization that can transform itself to lead and service our 21st Century Airmen into the future, it’s DFAS, Brown said.