WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio —
Location, location, location. That used to be a business mantra for many industries. While it’s still true in some aspects, the rise in virtual meetings, ease of travel and improvements to communication have made function even more important than location. The Air Force Materiel Command is proof.
AFMC celebrates its 30thth anniversary in 2022. The creation of the command was the result of a major reorganization of the logistics, technical and research parts of the Air Force.
But as the world changes, systems need to be fine-tuned for continued success.
“When AFMC merged the Air Force Systems Command and Air Force Logistics Command, they merged at the top,” said Lynn Eviston, who served as action officer to the AFMC commander at the time. “The command never really merged life cycle management or sustainment.”
In 2012, Congress announced drastic cuts to military spending. The cuts called for a number of involuntary reductions, including a major decrease in manpower, impacting both active duty and civilian personnel. AFMC, with its 12 centers located across the United States and a huge civilian population, was facing the most severe reductions in work force.
“In the past, cuts were treated with a ‘peanut butter’ spread approach,” Eviston said. “Each command, and each center beneath it, was forced to cut a percentage across the board. As the largest owner of civilians in the Air Force, a reduction in force would be pretty draconian.”
To enact the mandated cuts, AFMC adopted a strategic approach instead. The command had identified four core mission areas that combined to allow the organization to meet its overall mission.
Together, these core mission areas covered the entire life cycle of the systems that AFMC provided to the Air Force, from the earliest research and development of technologies to the sustainment of fielded systems and, eventually, the disposal of those retired from the inventory.
These four major areas could be summarized with four words: Technology, Acquisition, Testing and Sustainment. The nuclear weapons enterprise was later identified as a fifth core mission.
The solution centered on a fundamental change in the way that AFMC would conduct its primary missions. Instead of a location-specific organizational structure that required full support staffs at each location, the new construct would be mission-based. Each major mission would have a “lead” center under which other mission-similar sites would fail.
Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who assumed command of AFMC just prior to the execution of the reorganization, referred to the solution as, “not just a reorganization, but the reinvention of the command.”
Reducing the number of headquarters within the command’s organizational structure, the Air Force expected to cut overhead costs largely associated with staffing by approximately $109 million annually, with a reduction of only 1,051 civilian positions across the command.
The original five centers were named the Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Air Force Test Center, and Air Force Sustainment Center.
In Oct. 2016, a sixth center, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, was added. AFIMSC serves as the single intermediate-level headquarters responsible for providing installation and mission support capabilities to all Air Force and Space Force installations, major commands and direct reporting units.
It delivers globally integrated management, resourcing and combat support programs and services including Airmen and family services, base communications, chaplain, civil engineering, contracting, financial management, logistics readiness, public affairs and security forces.
The predications made in 2012 have not only been realized, but other quantifiable successes have also been identified, including:
- -A single weapons system face to the warfighter and industry
- -Simplification and reduction of overhead structure
- -Improved life cycle management by providing clearer lines of authority and responsibility, ensuring a single reporting chain for weapon system management across the lifecycle
- -Better integration of the maintenance and supply chain to improve depot performance
- -“Better Buying Power” and lower costs across the board
- -Standardized processes across all mission areas
“Today, we have six purpose-built centers perfectly designed to meet the needs of our warfighters, and support the Air Force of the future,” said Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, the current AFMC Commander.
The reorganization has provided unity of purpose–one center, one mission, one commander across multiple locations.
“As we propel the Air Force into the future, we will focus on integrated capability delivery, enterprise solutions, innovation in all its forms, digital and installation management and, above all, taking care of our people,” Richardson continued.
Today, the strength of the AFMC center construct is critical to meeting the command’s vision: One AFMC…powering the world’s greatest Air Force.