Transforming the Air Force

by Robert Ely
Air Force Materiel Command
USAFE maintainers gain top-down view

One of the top Air Force leaders involved in engineering a broad transformation in aircraft maintenance processes and organizational structures arrived at Ramstein Feb. 19 to talk with senior leaders, wing commanders and maintainers from the 86th Maintenance Squadron and 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

“We’re looking at the most fundamental transformation in logistics since the Air Force became a separate service,” said Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command.

Overall, this transformation initiative is called Expeditionary Logistics for the 21st Century. In daily usage at AFMC headquarters, it’s known as eLog21. It comprises a long list of programs and initiatives that planners explain will complete the Air Force’s transformation from a garrison-based force to an expeditionary force.

With expeditionary logistics, the key word is centralize. Regional repair facilities instead of base intermediate repair shops will centralize repair of many – though not all – engines and avionics. The Global Logistics Support Center – when it stands up as scheduled later this year at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. – will manage centralized distribution of repaired parts. Centralized Asset Management already has transformed the process by which parts and repairs are funded.

“This transformation is critical if the Air Force is going to help this country win not just the current war, but the next war as well,” said General Gabreski, whose career includes directing two aircraft maintenance units; serving as a squadron maintenance supervisor in three units; commanding three maintenance squadrons, a logistics group, and the Air Force’s largest Air Logistics Center; and twice serving as a major command director of logistics.

Adding to the complexity and pace of the Air Force operations’ tempo is the need to recapitalize the force and upgrade the aircraft fleet, and at the same time work with a reduced budget and fewer people.

The 36,600 USAFE men and women are part of a team that has been globally and continuously engaged in war for the past 17 years, General Gabreski said. USAFE maintainers are among those faced with keeping aircraft – which have an average age of 24 years – ready so that the Air Force can dominate in air, space and cyberspace.

In addition to centralization, the transformation involves realignment of some organizations. Between July and November, aircraft maintenance units supporting fighter and search and rescue flying squadrons will realign within those squadrons.

“Change is uncomfortable for many people,” General Gabreski said. “Senior leaders realize that change often produces anxiety. But our responsibility is to be part of the process and make sure we leverage available expertise as we transition – we must dress for success.”

The chief of staff of the Air Force recently released a White Paper in which he tied in a historical perspective relevant to logistics transformation, General Gabreski noted. Gen. T. Michael Moseley asserted that militaries failed in the past because of their inability to transform organizations and cultures, their inability to adopt new operational concepts and their inability to leverage breakthrough technologies.

Ultimately, General Moseley said the challenge is to transform not just the way the Air Force deters aggression and defends the nation, but also the way it conducts daily business.

“Part of AFMC’s mission is to provide acquisition management and logistics support necessary to keep Air Force weapon systems ready for war,” General Moseley said. “Sustainment is the lifeblood of our Air Force and crucial to Air Expeditionary Force operations directly supporting the Global War on Terrorism.

“General Moseley stated in his White Paper that ‘21st Century airpower is not merely the sum but the product of air, space and cyberspace superiority.

Loss of control in any one of these domains risks across-the-board degradation – if not outright failure’,” General Gabreski said. “We simply can’t afford to fail and transforming our maintenance and logistics functions is the foundation to achieving the chief’s vision.”