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End of Year beast

End of Year

U.S. Air Force graphic by Josh Plueger

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska --

Whether they have been doing it for one year, two years or even 20 years, the consensus among members of the 55th Contracting Squadron and 55th Comptroller Squadron is that end of fiscal year close out is a beast.

This year alone, 55th CONS awarded $364.4 million on 1,865 actions making them number one in the Air Force. A majority of the funds came directly from the $194.7 million that 55th CPTS allocated to the 55th Wing units spread across the globe.

Although the two squadrons are considered cross customers, relying heavily on each other to get the job done, their journey to close-out is slightly different.  

Contracting is divided into five flights: commodities, construction, services, specialized and plans and programs. At the end of July, they like to see 83 percent of annual funding spent, and then for the final two months, they get to work on the remaining 17 percent.

“Pretty much everything is a buildup,” said Airman 1st Class Andrew Byrne, 55th CONS commodities flight. “All the contracts you do throughout the year, you try to learn as much as you can, because when End of Year comes and you start doing several times the amount of normal contracts, it gets pretty hectic.”

He said he went from handling three to four contracts at a time to 14 to 15 contracts at a time. Byrne arrived at Offutt, his first duty station, just shy of last year’s EOY, but spent all year hearing rumors about the intensity of close out.

Due to the significant change in workload, most 55th CONS members are not permitted leave in August or September and find themselves working many late nights and even weekends.

For Jennifer McDonnell, 55th CONS construction flight, the anticipation was less because it was her second EOY. 

“In August everything starts ramping up,” she said. “It is when we get all our ducks in a row and make sure we are prepared, so just in case we get fall out money or any surprise requirements, we have everything else taken care of and we are ready to go. We flowed really well this year because everybody was helping everybody.”

Both Byrne and McDonnell agreed that preparation played a huge part in their success, but they also gave props to their leadership.

“At the end of the day we really do have excellent contracting officers,” Byrne said. “If you ever have a problem you can go to them. They really do have the mentality that there is no fire too big.”

McDonnell echoed his sentiment.

“Every situation is different,” she said. “There aren’t two days that are the same in contracting it seems like. They provide really good guidance on where you are supposed to go and what you are supposed to do next.”

For the 55th CPTS, preparation begins slightly earlier.

“We prep for end of year starting in March when we put together the end of year buy list, start doing the financial working groups, get a rack and stack done that we send to the group commanders to say ‘OK this is where we see it going, give us what you want to do,’ and start getting people ready,” said Lisa Dahmen, 55th CPTS analyst. “That way at the end of the year, whether we have funding for it or not, if we are ready to execute and all the sudden money falls down, boom, we are on it. That is why we start so early.”

Dahmen experience her first EOY in 1997. Twenty years later and she said every year is still different.

“This year was a tough year for Offutt,” she said. “First we had the hail storm, then we had the tornadoes and then we even had some flooding at some point in time. Things kept coming up.”

To add to the work load, Dahmen said they are in between accounting systems so they had to use two this year depending on the customer.

But a few things stay the same each year: extra hours start in August and there is no leave in September.

For Airman 1st Class Justin Williams, who arrived to Offutt in May and had never experienced EOY, his only perspective was from what he had heard during training.

“In technical school, all the instructors made it sound like it was going to be all in the month of September,” he said. “I knew there would be long hours and at times it would be stressful when there were issues that needed to be worked.”

But he said it ended up being so much more.

“It may have been pretty stressful and everyone knew it, but we still worked together like the team that we are,” Williams said. “It is a great office to work in.”

Even though the final day of EOY lasted for nearly 20 hours, 55th CPTS didn’t miss the opportunity to use this time to their advantage.

“We celebrate the day of close out with a big pot luck,” Dahmen said. “I start two weeks before and buy enough junk food to fill the conference room table. Close out is a fun time. We are tired, but our office works so well together that when we really have to pull it together, we pull it together. We get the job done. We are a village.”

The 55th CONS also took time to decompress. On the late nights, pizzas were ordered and the Monday after leadership cooked them breakfast. The chapel even stopped by with food.

“The best part of end of year is getting it done,” McDonnell said. “Once it was over, it was kind of like we could finally take a breath and relax. It is nice because even though we put in those super long days, our front office takes care of us afterwards. It is nice to know we are taken care of. We are putting in all those long hours, but we know it is worth it.”

Their two biggest takeaways were that EOY provides a ton of training and the most rewarding part helping customers get what they need.

“It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling,” Byrne said.