Visual Information Budgeting Basics

Article 5 min
Use these tips to help you plan your budget and prioritize expenses such as supplies, equipment and training.

According to DoDI 5040.02, Enclosure 8, "organizational elements or functions within organizations whose principal responsibility is to produce VI products and/or provide VI services (regardless of functional alignment) shall be managed by a designated VI manager."

As a visual information (VI) manager, you are responsible for managing, procuring and maintaining the resources necessary to accomplish the VI mission. To perform your duties effectively, you must thoroughly understand the unit mission and goals, your personnel and equipment authorizations and how you support the unit mission. How well you can translate your understanding of this information will enable you to realistically plan for and execute current and future year budget requests, spend plans and unfunded requirement justifications.

Annual Budget

The DoD works on a fiscal year (FY) cycle from 1 October to 30 September. This means you will generally need to prepare and submit your budget and requests for review and approval three to six months before the start of the next FY. Your budget request should include everything you will need to execute the VI mission with the organization in support of the commander's intent. Resources must be justified based on authorizations and mission impact. Money is normally allocated quarterly, so the quarterly spend plans you develop must illustrate where the money will go and when. It's important to plan and execute your budget in a way that prevents any deficiencies or stoppages that can degrade the mission as much as possible.

To prepare your annual budget request:

  • Determine your authorizations for personnel and equipment
  • Consider previous-year budget(s) as possible templates
  • Consider equipment lifecycle management
  • Include a list of items and services that are needed to keep your office operational and avoid a negative impact on the mission
  • Ensure your proposal is the most economical approach to meet the mission requirements
  • To justify funding for new capabilities and authorizations, or when adjusting funding levels for existing budget items, you must describe the impact to the mission if funding is withheld or reduced

Explore the types of expenses to help you build and prioritize your annual budget request.

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Important VI Budget Categories

Budget for Supplies

Items that fall under the supply category include office supplies, consumables and other expenses. Consider the following sample lists:


  • office supplies
  • batteries
  • SD cards


  • cold weather parka
  • thermal pants
  • bug traps
  • first aid kit

Mission-related essential items:

  • commercial-off-the-shelf equipment
  • authorized additional clothing items

Be aware! You cannot purchase bulk items at the end of a FY to be used during the next FY. For example, you cannot buy a large amount of printer paper at the end of the FY to avoid a surplus of money.

Budget forRecurrences

Consider your recurring expenses or subscriptions, such as:

  • Wi-Fi
  • cable
  • software subscriptions
  • journals
  • magazines

Budget forEquipment

Equipment required to run your shop includes both VI and office equipment.

You may be in a unit that is authorized to receive standardized VI kits funded through your service-level program. It's important to track the lifecycle of that authorized, issued equipment. You will likely have to purchase additional VI-related equipment with your annual budget to supplement your VI kits.

Consider the following VI equipment needs during each budget cycle:

  • DLSR cameras
  • cinematography cameras
  • tripods
  • gimbal
  • GoPro cameras/gear
  • lenses
  • memory cards
  • media kit
  • batteries
  • computers/laptops
  • software
  • adapters

You will likely identify equipment requirements that are too costly to reasonably factor into your annual budget. This is when a well-written UFR justification can be helpful to assist in the acquisition of some or all of that additional equipment.

Budget forTraining

Having the right equipment and the necessary training to carry out the mission can mean the difference between mission success or failure. As a VI Manager, you must identify and include professional and technical development training opportunities for your personnel into your annual budget request. Keep in mind that some training is funded by other programs at the command or service level and not always through your annual budget.

Training opportunities for your personnel exist in a variety of options. You can pay for individuals to go to conferences, workshops, courses, or for the training to come to you.

  1. DoD offers a variety of training opportunities to grow the skills of the personnel assigned to your unit, including your own. DINFOS offers resident and/or online training. Your unit may need to fund per diem and seats may be limited. DINFOS also offers Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), which you can coordinate and customize to meet your training needs.
  2. Industry training is also available. For example, Adobe offers conferences and online training, and the DC Shoot-off offers practical experience with industry mentors. This type of training is generally unit funded.

Note you cannot schedule to pay for future training that will happen after the end of the fiscal year.

Know Your Personnel

In the DoD environment, it's critical to track who's coming, who's leaving and any vacant positions. These variables impact training and equipment expenses, as well as how much of the mission your team can reasonably support. Check with the unit manning document to know how many people and what positions are actually allocated to your unit, and compare this to your unit personnel report. This document should at least tell you who is currently in your unit, their rank, grade, position and when they are projected to leave once that information is known. Understanding what you're authorized versus what you actually have will help you identify and prepare for when your shop is operating at a personnel deficiency, and take the necessary actions to arrange for replacement personnel and fill vacant positions.

Unfunded Requirement Justification

It's critical for you to track inadequate funding and the associated risks. If an organization doesn't use all of its allocated funds by a certain date (normally, the middle of the fourth quarter), the money may be taken back. This money, sometimes referred to as fall out money, is typically placed in a pot that units/organizations compete for to resource otherwise unfunded requirements.

An unfunded requirement (UFR) justification is a request you submit to compete for the fall out money within your organization and/or your service-level program. UFRs are also an option to procure resources outside those submitted with your allocated annual budget. UFRs are racked and stacked on a need and justification basis. It's essential that you become highly proficient at writing and justifying UFRs you're often competing for resources among others in your command, so your UFR justification must clearly articulate how your request is directly connected to your unit mission.

You cannot purchase training that occurs in the next FY with funds from a current FY. UFRs are often written towards the end of the FY, so by then it's likely that your UFRs will be for equipment instead of training.

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