The recent reorganization within AFMC with the consolidation of 12 product centers down to 5 was seen by some who spoke at the workshop as an opportunity for taking a more holistic approach to sustainment. The leader of the new AFLCMC, for example, deals with all program stovepipes and, in principle, has the ability to influence (although not to make) sustainment decisions across programs. Similarly, the leader of AFSC has control of the workflow at maintenance depots and test centers. Some participants pointed out that a challenge for AFMC is to determine what it is trying to achieve as an outcome and to get all of its components to work together to achieve that outcome. While the reorganization within AFMC was noted as a positive development by some workshop participants, it was not seen as a panacea. Indeed, reorganization per se was not seen as the solution to sustainment issues across the Air Force. Rather, a key point made by the some workshop participants involved the need to articulate at the highest levels the user-driven enterprise outcome desired and the need to give key individuals the authority and accountability for achieving that outcome.
Some workshop participants noted that the success achieved in NAVAIR, which was driven primarily by customer-focused metrics tied to fully burdened costs and through the application of “Lean” management principles, provides an “existence proof” and template for what can be accomplished in the Air Force. However, participants who commented did not minimize the challenges involved in implementing these management principles. They noted that the NAVAIR example was not implemented across the Navy as a whole, but only within a specific part. Accordingly, some participants expressed the view that implementation within the Air Force should start with a pilot or prototype project focusing on one weapon system (e.g., C-130 or F-15) and involving AFMC working with another MAJCOM, though there was disagreement about which one would make the best partner. Some workshop participants stated that AMC would be the most appropriate partner given its combat support mission, which is similar to that of AFMC. Others felt that Air Combat Command (ACC) would be the right choice, given the importance of getting the operators involved.
There was also discussion of who might champion such a pilot program. By analogy with the chief of naval operations’ role in the NAVAIR example, some participants who commented felt that the champion should be the Air Force chief of staff. However, it was noted that there needs to be another individual authorized to be the “campaign manager” who would facilitate training and changing peoples’ behavior. Some participants suggested that this person should be a four-star general, perhaps the leader of AFMC. The chief would give this individual the goal and associated metrics and hold him or her accountable for achieving them. It was pointed out that the transformation that took place at NAVAIR was difficult and took place over a period of at least 4 years. Thus, the continuity of leadership is a critical issue. A participant noted that regular rotations of command personnel make it imperative that changes be institutionalized so that they do not depend on individuals who may only be in the job for 18 months.