To best meet the challenges of the road ahead, Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, assembled leaders throughout the command here to initiate USAFE-wide implementation of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century.
“We’re going to determine where we’re going in the future, and AFSO 21 will help show which road to take for the strategic direction we need to take as a command,” General Hobbins said in his opening remarks before a three-day AFSO training event that included commanders from USAFE wings, 16th Air Force and representatives from key USAFE directorates such as logistics, operations, finance and plans and programs.
AFSO 21 embraces time-tested concepts such as Lean and Six Sigma, focusing on the identification and elimination of activities, actions and policies that do not contribute to the efficient and effective operation of the Air Force. Doing so will help eliminate unnecessary work and barriers for Airmen as well as to generate savings in a constrained budget environment. The savings are needed to recapitalize the Air Force and provide improved war-fighting capabilities for the joint team.
“We have to find ways of doing better with what we have, and with less effort,” said General Hobbins, who stressed that AFSO 21 will especially be targeted toward reducing the workload of USAFE Airmen during a force reduction that will decrease USAFE manpower by approximately 3,500 people.
Although AFSO 21 is being introduced at command level, it has already been implemented with success at the wing level. At Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, for example, AFSO 21 made life easier and more efficient for Airmen assigned to the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron’s Propulsion Flight.
Focus was placed on everything from the maintainers to the location of the tools that were used. Maintainers were encouraged to reevaluate their setup and eliminate non-value added movement. Their ideas and inputs changed the layout of the work area and moved toolboxes closer to the workers in more of an assembly line process. The result reduced time spent moving between what was being repaired and equipment being used.
Similar local success has been achieved by the 501st Combat Support Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. But now, said 501st Commander Col. Blake Lindner, he is prepared to help AFSO 21 reach its full potential after attending the three-day AFSO 21 Enterprise Value Stream Mapping and Analysis event. EVSMA was used to identify processes by which USAFE delivers its warfighting capability.
“The 501st CSW has been working the tactical level piece of AFSO 21 hard,” said Colonel Lindner. “This EVSMA has given us the strategic piece. Our wing’s next move is to get the word out to our folks to make sure our efforts drive to achieve the AFSO 21 vision for USAFE.”
At the MAJCOM level, AFSO 21 has the ability to take a good idea and implement it command-wide, said Stephen Jewett, the master process officer in charge of AFSO 21 for USAFE. During the three-day training event, possible USAFE-wide ideas included standardizing predeployment processes such as training and equipment, consolidating training ranges, and sortie generation issues such as alternative fuels and using fewer engines while aircraft taxi on the ramp.
But in addition to improving a process at a squadron or USAFE-wide, General Hobbins stressed the importance of analyzing the horizontal effect of changes that occur as a result of force reduction. For example, if a civil engineer squadron were to lose 100 Airmen, the general said it’s critical to examine how that may affect other units such as transportation, computer support or finance.
“We need to look at where processes touch other functions so that it adds value to continuous process improvement,” General Hobbins said.
AFSO 21 methodology has a history of proving its value for the Air Force dating back to 1999 when the Lean method was applied successfully to help solve inefficiencies with F-15 avionics problems at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., said Mr. Jewett.
But AFSO 21 isn’t just about improving a process on the assembly line. It can be applied wherever work is done, and that makes it more important than ever for USAFE during force reduction.
“We’re drawing down. That is for real,” Mr. Jewett said. “But the remaining folks have to do the mission just as before, so we absolutely must improve the way we do business. We have a true need for process improvement and to reduce waste more than ever before.”
A significant strength of AFSO 21, said Mr. Jewett, is that it places to Airmen in control.
“They get a voice and a choice to improve their own processes,” Mr. Jewett said. “People who own the process also own the final vote, so AFSO 21 is truly a win-win situation for both the individual Airman and the command as a whole.”
For more information about AFSO 21, contact your base AFSO 21 representative or the USAFE AFSO office at DSN 480-1045, or at AFSO 21 Web sites at www.afso21.hq.af.mil/ or wwwmil.usafe.af.mil/AFSO%2021.htm. (Contributing to this report: Tech. Sgt. Pamela Anderson, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base)