Guest Writer Ray Francis is a Navy Commander with over 20 years experience in safety management. He’s written many budget policy documents in the past and supervised to completion several major safety programs.
It’s common knowledge that budgeting and resource allocation on any military or defense project can be daunting, particularly for managers with no prior military experience. It’s easy to be thrown off by the sheer number of people and entities that need consultation just to get to the starting line of even a small project.
Many military units are constantly juggling operational and training commitments, so the Safety Officer might be in the office one day and on a plane to Kuwait the next, with her job covered by the Assistant Safety Officer who is also a helicopter pilot and happens to be flying every time you call. And even when they do use common processes and procedures, they must make up their own name for everything; it sometimes seems like it would take less effort to learn a foreign language than join a military project in progress.
In this environment, department and project budget allocation for safety training and management can be challenging, but there are three key considerations for budget allocation that can significantly increase productivity and efficiency:
Find out what military safety training resources are available for the asking first, and only allocate funds for those that are unique to your project. In many organizations safety takes a back seat in personnel and resources. Not so in many parts of the military. Everything from specialized equipment to additional training and manpower is likely available for the asking. If your project doesn’t have dedicated military safety resources assigned, whatever military facility you’re working on or near likely has an Occupational Health and / or Safety Office that is well staffed and resourced. Talk to them first; they might be able to take care of a lot of your needs outside your budget. Then, you only need to find funds for the unique needs of your operation.
Federal (including military) travel rules are strict and understanding them is an important first step to determining your travel budget. If you are working for a private entity with a set travel budget, you have a lot of latitude in how you spend it. However, if you are bound by Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR), you must work through a labyrinth of rules, each with seemingly a dozen caveats. The bad news is you’re less likely to fly business class or stay at the Drake. The good news is your budget will be much more predictable and you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck out of travel, particularly if you’re leveraging the government travel system.
Determine the safety policy compliance needs of your project or team and assess whether they are the same as the military standards set for your project. Some military units live and breathe OSHA, others can’t spell it. If everyone’s on the same page from the beginning, you probably will not need to allocate extra resources to ensure compliance across the enterprise. If not, best to know that going in and budget accordingly.
Budgeting within or alongside military projects can be a significant challenge, but there are assets and resources available in abundance in the military that are tough to come by almost everywhere else. The keys are taking the time early in a new project to ask the right questions and determine what policies are in play and what’s available for free (or at least from sources outside your budget) before allocating your own often scarce funds.