SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Being good stewards of Air Force dollars isn’t optional, it’s an obligation and if not followed can have legal repercussions at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
Gregory Deas, 50th Space Wing Inspector General’s Office director of complaints, said fraud, waste and abuse are not the same thing, despite being grouped together as an acronym.
“There isn’t one definition, there’s fraud, then there’s waste and then abuse,” he said. “They’re all different, but they’re all taken very seriously.”
According to the Inspector General Guide to Fraud, Waste or Abuse Awareness, they are defined as:
- Fraud – Any intentional deception designed to unlawfully deprive the government of something of value or to secure from the government for an individual a benefit, privilege, allowance or consideration to which he or she is not entitled.
- Waste – The extravagant, careless or needless expenditure of government funds or the consumption of government property that results from deficient practices, systems controls or decisions. The term also includes improper practices not involving prosecutable fraud.
- Abuse – Intentional, wrongful or improper use of government resources. Examples include misuse of grade, position or authority that causes the loss or misuse of resources
Deas said the IG, along with commanders investigate fraud, waste and abuse allegations.
“We review each and every case extensively with the commanders of the unit where the allegation was made,” he said. “In some cases, [the Air Force Office of Special Investigations] will get involved.”
Capt. Kelly Fennell, 50th Space Wing chief of military justice, said punishment for fraud, waste and abuse falls under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for service members and federal law for civilians.
“Punishments for misusing government funds range from administrative level paperwork, such as a [letter of counseling], to general courts-martial, which can lead to time in prison,” she said.
Fennell said it is important to have integrity and pay attention to detail.
“Even accidental misuse of government funds will typically result in punishment,” she said. “It’s important to pay attention to what you’re spending government dollars on, how much you’re spending and why. Even accidentally using a government card for something like gas can result in administrative paperwork. We’re taught to pay attention to detail for a reason.”
Fennell said the repercussions of participating in fraud, waste and abuse can have implications far beyond a military career.
“Service members separated due to punishment for fraud, waste and abuse will receive a dishonorable discharge,” she said. “The natural consequences include losing all military and government benefits and the inability to re-enlist. The secondary consequences of receiving a dishonorable discharge include difficulties getting hired for jobs and applying for loans.”
Fennell said if uncertain about how government funds are being used, reach out to legal, finance, government purchase card program managers or the IG office.
“We have an ethical obligation to report misuse of government funds and as service members, it is our duty,” she said. “There are protections in place in order to ensure there are no consequences for reporting it; however, there are repercussions for failing to report it.”
Deas said it’s important to properly manage Air Force dollars, as not every unit receives what was requested.
“Everything is tied to the mission,” he said. “Every year each unit gets a budget to operate off of, when you misuse that budget, taxpayers are impacted and the mission is impacted.”
Deas said the IG does not issue punishments, unit commanders do.
“It’s important to be good stewards of Air Force dollars,” he said. “The public trusts us and the tax payers fund us and our mission, we need to make sure we’re utilizing those dollars properly and continuing to build a strong [positive] relationship with the public.”