Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the newly created Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., said progress has been remarkable.
“We’re operating more effectively today than we were before we stood up,” Litchfield said during a brief, Tuesday press conference at Robins Air Force Base. The general visited the base Monday and Tuesday, toured a number of work areas and met with base officials and workers.
The AFMC restructuring announced last November reduced the command from 12 to five centers, and established the AFSC at Tinker and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Robins lost its two-star command position in the process along with support staffs for the commander and the Aerospace Sustainment Directorate. Also, the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center was eliminated and the 402nd Maintenance Wing was redesignated the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex
Both the local complex commander and the 78th Air Base Wing commander report to Litchfield while senior officials on the weapon system management side report to the AFLCMC commander. Altogether, the move has claimed 975 jobs at Robins . Initial operational status for the new structure was achieved this summer with full operational capability expected the middle of 2013.
Litchfield, whose career includes several years at Robins in software management and electronic warfare, said sustainment operations at Robins, Tinker and Hill Air Force Bases are “talking the same language” for the first time.
“We’re all executing with a similar leadership model and we’re operating under the same scientific principles,” he said. “It’s remarkable to see that in such a short period of time. I’m very pleased at how things are working today.”
Litchfield said his recent visits throughout the command are revealing an unprecedented mission focus.
“What we do at the sustainment bases is deliver capable aircraft to the warfighter,” he indicated. “Now, we have an intense focus in our organic depot operations and in supply chain management. We’re all working together to make sure we don’t have any gaps in what we execute. We’re all focused on the same output.”
The new commander does not anticipate additional reductions in jobs or workload at Robins due to foreseeable budget cuts, including the Obama administration’s plan to trim Defense Department funding by $487 billion over the next ten years.
“I know of no additional losses on the books right now,” he said at the Tuesday press conference. “The reorganization was designed to take those (the president’s cuts) into account. But the uncertainty of the future means we will have to watch it very closely and very carefully to see how the budget turns out. Right now, we’re under a continuing resolution and that’s what we will have for the next six months. Then, hopefully, we will have a budget in place after that.”
Of course if sequestration takes hold, all bets are off, he concedes. Sequestration, included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, will pull an additional $500 billion from national security spending over the next decade beginning in January unless Congress acts to amend or repeal it.
Litchfield said the rules for sequestration are straight forward.
“If that happens, there will be major impacts at Robins and every other base,” he confirmed.
He said AFMC was not currently making plans to accommodate sequestration impacts.
“We’re focusing on our mission as we know it today and we’re letting the folks in Washington D.C. determine how we plan for (sequestration) and what will happen in the future,” the general stressed.
He said the goal – in view of a dwindling defense budget – must be to gain greater efficiency.
“Our three sustainment bases must reduce the cost of what it takes to deliver readiness to our fleet,” Litchfield said. “The cost of readiness will determine the size of the force we will be able to afford in the future and that will determine whether we’re able to fight and win the next war.”