Lord: ‘Pass Through’ USAF Budget to be Examined

Pentagon acquisition and sustainment chief Ellen Lord said the Air Force’s unique and confusing “pass-through” budget mechanism will be examined in the larger context of setting up Space Force.

“As we stand up Space Command and Space Force, I think we are looking at the entire structure of the organization; all resourcing issues from funding to staffing,” Lord told defense reporters at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., Jan. 14. “Everything is on the table,” she said, and while she declined to offer specific comment on what should happen with “pass-through” accounting, “We are doing a wholesale look at the entire system.”

“Pass through” is the odd budgetary construct wherein the Air Force is appropriated monies that are immediately routed to joint Defense Department agencies and accounts, without the service ever exercising any control over them. The Air Force is the only service whose budget is structured this way and the bizarre arrangement leads to continuous confusion over the true size of the service’s budget. The specific uses of the funds are classified, but are generally understood to primarily fund space research, development, and procurement programs.