JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
A new travel payment process for pipeline students, initiated by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, is projected to save the Air Force $5 million a year.
The new process - switching which billing account is charged for travel – is a small change yielding tremendous benefits, said Darryl Hamilton, AFIMSC’s Installation Support Directorate, traffic management chief.
“We are basically switching from one card to another: a centrally billed account card to a unit card. The only difference is what card the travel management company charges when student travel is booked. It’s that simple,” he said.
When the Air Force pays for pipeline student travel with a government-issued, centrally billed account travel card, the charges include a transaction fee of nearly $67 for each student. With 30,000 to 40,000 Airmen completing basic military training and transitioning into Air Education and Training Command technical schools every year, those fees add up.
“The transaction fees assessed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service cost the Air Force millions of dollars each year,” Hamilton said.
To save the Air Force money by reducing the number of high transaction fees, the AFIMSC Installation Support Directorate’s traffic management branch recently began focusing on driving down the number of travelers using a centrally billed account. The branch first worked with the Logistics Readiness Division of the Air Force Directorate of Logistics and the Air Force Financial Management and Comptroller Office to influence a Department of Defense policy requiring all DoD employees to use their individual travel card for official travel.
Next, because pipeline students don’t have individual government travel cards, AFIMSC began testing unit card use for their official travel in 2018.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to save the government money and make processes more efficient,” Hamilton said.
Using a unit card is nothing new. It allows transportation officers to consolidate all students with the same line of accounting to one transaction fee, but they have never been used for this purpose, said Gina Hoover, AFIMSC traffic management specialist.
“For years, different organizations – including the Air Force Band, sports teams and units with unique group travel requirements – have used a unit card to procure transportation services, but it’s never been tested on a large scale such as moving BMT graduates to technical school and technical school students to their first duty stations,” she explained.
The Air Force started testing the new process at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, in October 2018. The second phase launched April 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. So far, the concept has already saved the Air Force more than $100,000, Hamilton said.
In addition to the obvious cost benefit, the reconciliation process is now a lot more streamlined and efficient, said Andrew Burton, passenger travel manager at Keesler AFB.
“We found, on the user level, the reconciliation of payment has dropped from several days to minutes,” he said.
For the AFIMSC team, the benefits of finding and implementing cost-savings extend beyond efficient travel management.
“Think of the money that can be repurposed to support more mission requirements and our warfighters,” Hoover said.
The new process is expected to be in place at all AETC locations by September.