Talk has failed to reconcile differences between the Air Force and its civilian auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol. The two sides are preparing for a showdown in Congress.
The patrol hoped to stave off an Air Force move to gain oversight control of its governing body by agreeing April 24 to better account for its multi-million dollar spending, which Air Force auditors have challenged.
The patrol also agreed to develop a new “permanent organizational mechanism” for Air Force input into patrol management.
The patrol rejected, however, an Air Force requirement for a new governing board made up of active-duty members as well as civilian patrol members. Air Force officials have grown increasingly concerned since 1995 about the patrol’s spending, declining flying safety record and allegedly unorthodox management. A review by the Air Force Audit Agency of the patrol’s 1997 spending prompted the Air Force’s move to gain greater control.
Patrol officials defend their spending as legal and their safety record as better than that of general aviation.
Service Seeks Oversight
Air Force officials, armed with an audit highly critical of patrol management, had hoped to get the group’s board to agree to a new governing structure giving the Air Force oversight.
“We would have liked to move forward with you, but lack of consensus cannot prevent action,” acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters said in an April 30 memo to the patrol’s national commander, Brig Gen James Bobick. “Thus, the Air Force has elected to work with Congress on legislation” to change the board.
Gen Bobick, in a May 3 statement, called Peters’ decision “disappointing.”
“The volunteer board of CAP met … and demonstrated their willingness to cooperate and work with the Air Force,” Gen Bobick said. “They accepted the Air Force’s proposal to change our funding mechanism.”
But he said the board balked at the service’s proposal to restructure the board because too many questions remained.
Under the draft legislation proposed by the Air Force, the majority of the new governing board would be made up of active-duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and retired Air Force General Officers and senior civilians within the Air Force.
The board chairman would be the senior active-duty Air Force member.
The Air Force also wants an Executive Director, safety officer and inspector general who report directly to the Air Force Secretary, according to the proposed legislation.
The Air Force’s problem with the patrol’s vote to adopt standard Office of Management and Budget accounting practices, as the Air Force insisted, was timing. The new practices would not kick in until fiscal 2000. That’s not soon enough for the Air Force.
“That’s another $60 million they’d get that they won’t be accountable for,” said one Air Force official.
The Air Force will not be alone in appealing to Congress, however.
The patrol considers the Air Force’s actions an attempt to gain total control over patrol management, and has asked its members to contact their congressmen in support of the patrol leadership.
The patrol also has hired a public relations firm to lobby Congress. According to one Air Force official, the patrol has budgeted $120,000 over the next six months for the lobbying effort.
Another official said there is no way to tell how much of the $120,000 comes from patrol-raised funds and how much is Air Force-appropriated money — which he said illustrates the problems the Air Force has with the patrol’s spending and accounting practices.