Monday, February 18, 2013

Thinking ahead, despite budget constraints

You need to be thinking ahead, even if those above you don't.

You can't avoid reading about sequestration and the upcoming budget cuts. It's everywhere, and for those of us in the military, we're already fighting for the bit of money we have left. I'm shocked though that people are acting surprised. We've seen this coming for quite some time:

Back in 2011, we had a threat to military pay:

I had a late-night argument with one of the officers I was going to school with at the time. He was mad that the military's pay might not happen, and that we deserved our pay. I shot back that we took an oath to defend the United States, and we said that being a Naval Officer is service, not a job.

We make many sacrifices, to include potentially laying down our lives. Yet we become suddenly defensive when there is a threat to our pay? Any good financial planner would tell you to store up between 3 and 6 months of pay, so even if Congress and the President were at loggerheads for a month, we should still be good, right?

Yet somehow, despite all the media attention, we let ourselves not plan, and then cry when suddenly we may have to live like everyone else.

We've been allowed to not think ahead, and we're seeing that again today.

My division began making preparations for the budget crisis in September, as much as they probably don't realize it. I didn't bother to tell anyone, because I didn't think anyone would have listened at the time.

- I made our division use the VTC terminals at all detachment sites, and write down (on our webpage) how to setup a VTC call. At the time, we didn't need them, since we always had enough people at a site to conduct boards, and always had the money to send people places...
- I pushed a lot of people through training. I forced our customers to write out all the requirements that they had been stating only verbally, and then sent my sailors to those courses. Now we're setup for a good two years, and only need local training that doesn't cost TDY money...
- I put everything online. I made us take all unclassified documents and share them through Intelink, and made it such that you could work at home, in the event that our buildings were ever shut down...
- I found ways to save money. I setup a way to certify our operators CONUS, instead of the traditional method of simply sending them overseas to qualify (in many cases via OJT). I also documented how much money was saved for each trip...

As a Naval Officer, you need to read the news and know what's coming down the pipe. You need to be ready for all things that are likely to happen, to include everything from contingency operations to budget cuts. You should always be asking yourself "How do I do things better so that the next emergency doesn't catch me by surprise?"

Don't expect the person above you to do this. It's not their job. You, ultimately, are responsible for the readiness of the people directly assigned to you. Not being ready to execute any mission that is tasked to you is a failure on your part, not your bosses.

Start planning now.

- If your TDY budget for training went to zero, would you be able to operate?
- If your building got flooded out, would you be able to work from home?
- If one of your sailors was in a car accident, would your division still operate?
- If you died tomorrow, would your division still operate according to your vision?

If you can't answer yes to these questions, you need to take some steps:

- Make everything accessible from home that you can. Intelink ( is your friend. Being able to telecommute makes you more flexible when responding to natural disasters, and lets you give incentives to allow people to telecommute for good behavior.
- Are you waiting on training? Your people need to always be 100% ready to go. If they haven't completed required courses, are you waiting for an invitation?
- Did you actually write down an SOP for what you do (either in an instruction or online)? Have you made every collateral duty able to be turned over in one hour (via a good binder and electronic SOP)?

Get ready now. Be ready to go at a moments notice. And likely you'll notice that the moments you want will come to you.