Comptroller reflects on support to Air Force people

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- "The only gift is a portion of thyself."  Pam Henson says she has embraced these words of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson as the guiding theme to her long and successful career with the Air Force.

Since 1978, Henson has made it a priority to listen, learn, and provide guidance to all who have had the fortune to work with and for her.  Henson, who has served as Director of Financial Management and Comptroller with the Air Force Research Laboratory since 2002, retires June 2.  She has left a lasting mark on AFRL's Financial Management Directorate during her tenure, shaping it into a focused and efficient office that continually ensures the timely and accurate financial execution to support the Air Force's science and technology program.

"AFRL is known in the Air Force for financial integrity and accuracy," states Henson.  "Over the past 12 years, I have been devoted to establishing that reputation for AFRL."
Henson said she believes one of her most important contributions to AFRL has been the implementation of a system that more efficiently ensures financial integrity, accuracy, and timely delivery of the directorate's financial products.

"When I came to AFRL, we operated through spreadsheets and data calls to AFRL's Technology Directorates," reflects Henson.  "My team identified requirements and implemented tools to improve accuracy of our accounting transactions, and with the addition of a financial management program called Comprehensive Cost and Requirement System, AFRL is now able to quickly and accurately inform leaders and provide analysis."

Henson began her career with the Air Force as a co-op accounting trainee at the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  Since 1989, she has served in financial management and comptroller leadership positions at Wright-Patterson, the Pentagon, Los Angeles AFB, Calif., and Hill AFB, Utah.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double-major in finance and accounting from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and an MBA from the University of Dayton.  She was also an Air War College student in residence in 1990 and Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard School of Government in 1992.

With an overall staff of over 250 civilian and contract employees, Financial Management keeps AFRL moving forward by providing financial services supporting the laboratory's operations, ensuring responsible stewardship and public accountability of resources, and providing decision makers with accurate and timely financial information.

It hasn't always been easy, Henson says.  She notes ongoing challenges include ensuring financial integrity in every action the office makes, providing world-class customer service, and selecting and developing a workforce that can meet these goals.  However, none have been as difficult as recent Federal Government furlough and sequestration mandates that threatened planning the execution of funding for AFRL's science and technology (S&T) research and development.

Henson says Department of Defense and national leaders recognize the importance of focused S&T investment.  Despite a constrained federal funding environment, S&T funding has stayed fairly consistent, between 1.8 to 2 percent of the Air Force's top line budget authority.  During the implementation of sequestration, Henson and her team performed analysis of options to address possible cuts.  Fortunately, she said, fiscal year 2013 was appropriated with only an 8 percent cut to S&T instead of the government's originally proposed 25 percent reduction.  And fiscal year 2014 was fully appropriated after an initial evaluation proposed a 20 percent cut.

"Pam and her team have done truly remarkable work contending with uncertainty and smartly executing our budget," said Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, AFRL commander.  "It's been an honor to serve with Pam for a small portion of her distinguished career supporting our warfighters and taxpayers."

As Henson ponders retirement, she states that she will miss the complexity of the AFRL mission, solving problems, and the dynamic environment and teamwork that AFRL provides. However, what she will miss most are the people of AFRL.

"The people I work with will stay in my heart, and I will miss them," says Henson.  "I hope that I had a positive influence on their career and their contributions to the Air Force."

Henson adds that she plans to remain quite busy, traveling to visit family, continuing  volunteer work, spending time on landscape and craft projects, and attending courses at the University of Dayton's Lifelong Learning Institute.

Ms. Jennifer Morgan will succeed Henson as AFRL's Director of Financial Management and Comptroller on June 2.  Morgan comes to AFRL after spending nearly 3 years as Deputy Director of Budget Operations and Personnel for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Budget in Washington, D.C.

"I am leaving financial management in the very capable hands of Jennifer Morgan," states Henson.  "Her experience and skills will provide a new perspective, initiatives and leadership in continuing AFRL's reputation for financial integrity and accuracy."