'GOO' impedes Keesler's purchasing power

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Bill Kiser
  • 81st Comptroller Squadron
Do you get a huge refund back at tax season? For some, the federal tax system provides the best savings account available. Receiving a large check at the end of the year is nice, but the ultimate outcome is lost interest and buying power for an entire year. What if you had those funds available during the year to liquidate debt or invest? We tax the GOO in the same manner. I'm not talking about a substance frequently referenced as slime in the Ghostbusters films, but our Government Orders Outstanding list that's used to track open travel orders.

When a travel order is created funds are set aside to cover the cost the travel, including per diem, hotel, rental car, airline tickets and any miscellaneous expenses. Certification of fund availability is the final step allowing the traveler to press ahead with the mission. When the traveler returns from temporary duty, he or she, by regulation, has five duty days to file the voucher.

Before you start throwing hand grenades in my direction, I realize that it can take some time to get the voucher paid and the voucher process will never be user-friendly enough to satisfy everyone; however, let's save that discussion for another time. What I'd like to focus on is the cost to your unit, the 81st Training Wing and the Air Force that occurs when you neglect to file a voucher within five duty days or fail to cancel the order when travel is no longer required. Travelers who fail to file a travel voucher end up on our "slimer" list, better known as the GOO.

The GOO file consists of all open travel orders and advances that have not been filed. For the 81st Training Wing and tenant organizations, 2,500 open orders are accounted for, with almost 900 of those orders aging to 60 days or more past due, according to the estimated return date. The 2,500 open orders currently obligate over $4 million of 81st TRW funds.

Allowing orders to age on our accounting records "taxes the GOO." When you fail to file your travel voucher, the accounting picture becomes murky. It's unclear if funds must be added to cover additional expenses or if funds should be returned for unit utilization. A true picture of actual purchasing power can't be ascertained, which results in lost purchasing opportunities.

Imagine you create an order totaling $5,000. The TDY subsequently gets cancelled, but a modification to the order isn't completed to remove the obligation. Tomorrow, your commander needs $5,000 to purchase organizational clothing for deployed members, but $5,000 isn't available. I admit that this is an oversimplified example, but this lost purchasing power is the cost of taxing the GOO and it increases over time. You file your taxes every year by April 15 because you know the Internal Revenue Service will hold you accountable. The 81st Comptroller Squadron contacts members who are identified on the GOO, but unlike the IRS, the resources to hold you accountable are limited. We are in a shifting paradigm where resources are becoming severely constrained. Filing your voucher on time makes a difference.

If you want to use the federal government as a savings account, then do so -- that's your money. But you're also a taxpayer, and the funding used for these TDYs comes from your pocket. In our culture of cost consciousness, each of us is responsible to use government resources wisely. Your help with timely filing and followup on unpaid or outstanding vouchers can help the wing recapture lost purchasing power.

For more information or assistance in filing a voucher, call 228-376-8225 or e-mail 81CPTS/Travel@us.af.mil.