The announcement was made as Air Force began a first round of civilian manpower cuts to address impacts of a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next ten years.
But Mike O’Hara questions the AFMC game plan. The now retired former director of civilian personnel at Robins believes the initiative holds potentially dire consequences for Robins and Air Force logistics. He contends that AFMC restructuring should be halted until congressional hearings are conducted.
“I acknowledge that there will be reductions at Robins and at other centers based on the impact of the drawdown,” O’Hara noted. “Anyone who does not recognize that is naïve. But I fear that these necessary reductions are being used as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the pending disaster that will result from the reorganization being quietly slipped into place.”
Under the realignment, air logistics center and aerospace sustainment directorate support staffs at Robins will be eliminated. The local management and industrial complex will lose 193 civilian jobs along with its two-star, major general command slot. The 402nd Maintenance Wing -- the industrial heart of the center and the installation -- will become an air logistics complex headed by a one-star, brigadier general. Similar changes will occur at Air Force logistics centers in Utah and Oklahoma.
To this point, AFMC officials have not issued detailed organizational charts outlining new lines of communication and authority. They have also not offered data and analysis to support their claim that realignment will save $109 million annually and improve management and efficiency.
The Utah congressional delegation cried foul when it learned that AFMC had not conducted a business case analysis for the move. They asked for at least a one-year delay. Section 8113 of the 2012 Defense Authorization Act requires the BCA, they contended. AFMC has not publicly responded nor has a slippage been announced in the October 2012 implementation date.
O’Hara believes the insistence on a business case analysis could be telling.
“Clearly the Air Force is ahead of its headlights per the statute,” O’Hara said. “They have not defended the effectiveness and efficiency of the move. In fact, they have it backwards.”
He believes senior AFMC officials are scrambling behind the scenes.
“They have been trying to cobble together a story to answer the mail,” he said. “But how can they move forward and execute any aspect of the reorganization without the required analysis? Pressing on would be violation of federal law.”
Under the new structure, various aspects of the local base will report to a yet-to-be-established Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or an Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
O’Hara thinks that’s also a bad idea.
“It will splinter the chain of command,” he believes. “It will prove ineffective and create unnecessary decision making delays.”
Maj. Gen. Bob McMahon, the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander, was asked about congressional opposition to AFMC’s reorganization during a Thursday press conference on base.
McMahon, whose job will go away under the plan, said he was aware of meetings involving members of Congress and senior Air Force officials.
“But I am not privy to all the conversations,” McMahon indicated. “My job is to execute policy and we’re moving forward with the planning as if there was no impediment.”
Much of the game plan has already been executed. The general stressed that 238 people accepted separation incentives last December and another 360 will walk out the door in April. The full transition to the new structure will occur between June 1 and Oct. 1, he added.
“My job is to ensure the air logistics center and whatever the future organization might be is best prepared for the changes we’ve been directed to do and the challenges we face,” McMahon stressed.
O’Hara is particularly upset with a move that he believes will further subordinate civilian personnel management.
Some years ago, responsibility for most civilian management functions was consolidated under the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio, Texas. Civilian personnelists at Robins remained on the air logistics center staff, but their positions actually belonged to the AFPC commander.
That will change under the realignment. Instead of shifting to directly support the new air logistics complex commander, the remaining civilian personnel management team will fall under the 78th Air Base Wing’s Force Support Squadron, an agency that already handles management of the base’s military workers.
Max Wyche, director of manpower and personnel for Warner Robins ALC, confirmed the decision in a Jan. 3 e-mail to his subordinates.
“It goes without saying,” he noted in the message obtained by The Patriot, “that I consider this decision a significant change to our current organizational structure. We have demonstrated under the single (directorate of personnel) concept a high performing organization and (we) provided focused, base-wide support … (but) AFMC direction at this point is consolidation under the ABW FSS.”
The Air Force has not approved an interview with Wyche. However O’Hara believes the change will isolate the new air logistics complex commander -- and his almost 9,000 civilian workers -- from the critical civilian management staff.
“The remaining labor and employee relations team will be buried in FSS,” he noted, “and it likely will be run by an Air Force major whose focus will be on military personnel. He or she may not have the expertise needed to effectively work civilian personnel issues.”
More to the point, O’Hara noted, the logistics complex will not have a dedicated management resource to quickly shift, reconfigure and realign the civilian workforce to meet new requirements or emerging workloads.
“What major corporation in America does not have a vice president for human resources reporting directly to the chief executive officer?” he asked. “The answer, of course, is none. This new Air Force civilian management model has already been rejected by all other Defense Department agencies.”
The saving grace, O’Hara contends, is that the AFMC reorganization plan appears to be somewhat fluid. But can it be delayed? Altered? Tweaked?
“I hope so,” he said, “but that will only happen if Congress decides to hold hearings and forces the Air Force to explain the move.”
Will that happen? “I’m not sure,” he conceded, “but it’s possible.”