Towards the end of 2013, Brig. Gen. Michael Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander, announced his cost-savings initiative for Edwards AFB – Project84. According to Brewer, if everyone on base saved $84 each month, it would ultimately save an excess of $11 million annually.
The problem was finding out where the $84 would come from each month and that is where Project84 came in. Every person who works, lives or visits Edwards was invited to submit their ideas for cutting costs around base.
“Under the current economic climate, if we continue to do what we’ve done last year, we’re going to run out of money this year, so it’s incumbent upon us to figure out how we do our operations differently, how we get these ideas and execute these ideas so we can control our cost,” said Brewer. “We’ve already received lots of good ideas. We’re looking at things on energy savings from lighting to how we operate our computers during the evenings, changes to our flight operations and training, but we have to keep these ideas coming in. Our goal is for us all to be $1,000 less costly on average this year, or about $84 per month, hence the term ‘Project84.’”
The project has already brought in many good ideas, but the initiative isn’t over. Members of the Edwards community are encouraged to continue sending in their thoughts.
“We have the opportunity now to save money, to do things better, smarter and more [efficiently],” said Rodney Cruse, 412th TW Plans and Programs and Project84 lead. “General Brewer has started this initiative because he wants to hear from all of us no matter where you work. If you have an idea to save money while maintaining safety and lawfulness, General Brewer wants to know about it and you can do that through Project84.”
To submit your ideas to Project84, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (661) 275-8484. A Project84 tab can also be located on the bottom of the left-hand column on the Edwards home page, www.edwards.af.mil, and information has been added to the Edwards AFB site on the AF Portal.
Here are a few highlighted Project84 ideas:
Andrew Gumm, 412th Communications Squadron, computer maintenance chief, is seeing his Project84 idea, “right sizing” printers, implemented.
The original idea came from a Digital Printing and Imaging Program over five years ago and was intended as an Air Force-wide initiative to lean out the printer stock and reduce costs associated with printing. However, the plan was never successfully executed.
Gumm took over as computer maintenance chief two years ago and noticed right away the enormous fleet of outdated printers and their associated expenses.
“Many of them have vulnerabilities that can’t be fixed,” said Gumm.
He started working on a plan to reduce the printer fleet by half, but had to prove that the plan was appropriate. Early in 2013, Gumm and his team started a pilot program within their organization to demonstrate the potential for cutting costs.
The experiment took place in four buildings that started with 42 printers and are now using only 11 without impacting their ability to print. What they found was a 45% overall reduction in printing and 58% in color prints, conservatively. Gumm stated that there are currently 1,300 network connected printers on base and approximately $400,000 worth of toner stocked up.
But, it’s not just toner and paper that makes printing so expensive, it’s maintenance.
“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is reduce what it costs to print a sheet of paper,” said Gumm. “Something that is supposed to cost a penny a piece is costing 15 cents a piece and color print jobs as much as 50 cents a sheet. It all depends on the organization, the machine, the usage, the age of the printer and the amount of maintenance. It’s a complex problem and it’s hard to quantify a single printer.”
Gumm estimates that the project will take 12 – 20 months to fully integrate. During that time, his team will perform an analysis to determine a proper balance between each organizations number of print jobs generated and geography of their building.
The printers that are no longer available will go through the DRMO process if they have vulnerabilities that can’t be fixed. Those that are still useable will be “mothballed” until another printer needs to be replaced.
Gumm sees “culture” as the projects largest hurdle. He has received some concerns about printing securely for those with sensitive information. He stated that multifunction printers are often CAC-equipped. Print jobs can be sent to the printer encrypted and will wait for the user to insert a CAC card before printing, a feature that has been available for the last four years.
“Project84 came up and suddenly the pathway [for 'right sizing'] was paved with gold,” said Gumm.
Larry Booth is a Mission Scheduling Support specialist with several cost-savings ideas.
“General Brewer asked us for ways to save money, so my initial thought was, maybe we can fly each mission five minutes less. As far as I can tell, five minutes of each mission can mean a thousand pounds of fuel and that would add up significantly, to millions of dollars of savings,” said Booth.
His next idea was about bringing home aircraft that had been “stuck out” at Vance and Tinker Air Force Bases. According to Booth, pilots are sent on commercial flights to retrieve the aircraft. That means the Air Force has to pay for airline tickets, food and lodging. Booth suggested that pilot crews ride in Air Force tankers and then fly the aircraft back the same day.
“It would save a lot of money and we could accomplish getting all the airplanes back in one day,” said Booth.
Booth shared that he believes solving the budget crisis is a team effort. He wrote in his suggestions to Brewer that he would voluntarily give up one hour per week if it would help.
“I told them I would even come mow the grass myself,” said Booth. “General Brewer thought that was pretty funny. But, we all need to be conscious of our day-to-day practices. We need to be conscious of the bottom line that is spent to accomplish the mission. We know that the budget has been impacted severely, so we want to do our part so that funds can be used elsewhere.”
Booth encouraged others to start submitting their own ideas as well.
“I think anytime you solicit the opinions of the entire base you’re going to have someone come up with a golden idea. I believe Project84 will be very successful. We can cut a few dollars here and a few dollars there, eventually it will add up.”
Cheryl Middleton, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs systems analyst, also had several ideas for Project84, but perhaps the biggest was to re-landscape the business areas on base. The suggested landscaping was xeriscaping, a desert landscape that uses primarily rocks and desert plants instead of grass and lush, green trees.
The idea is to save money by eliminating the need for watering the lawn or paying a contractor to mow it. She first learned about xeriscaping from Environmental Management, who had already switched to xeriscaping.
“They had signs that explain what it is and why they did it. I thought it was very clever of them to think of it and to do it,” said Middleton. “We’re in a desert, let’s save water.”
Although xeriscaping would cost now, it would save money in the long-run, much like Middleton’s second idea, solar-powering the dorm areas. At the “very least” Middleton would like to see solar-heated water in the dorms.
Middleton also recommended converting any cars or “put-puts” on base to electric and making charging stations available.
“I like the idea of Project84 very, very much and I sincerely hope people take advantage of it,” said Middleton. “If you’re not happy with something, if you have a good idea, use that program to fix what you’re not happy about. I ultimately feel we’re all here to make things better.”
Energy and water were not Middleton’s only concerns. She recommended making the Joshua Tree Dining Facility open to everyone using a tiered system. The idea would be to have Airmen and younger NCO’s pay lower prices and others would pay according to their means. She also recommended tiered attendance to ensure that Airmen would not have their meal times interfered with.
“It’s a very nice facility, I don’t understand why we don’t do this,” said Middleton. “At the very least, it should be open for retirees.”
She would also like to see the Edwards community grow a garden, to be used for flowers and vegetables. The idea, she believes, is good for the schools too. Students would learn to garden and the produce could be used in the cafeteria.
Gary Glazner, 412th Range Systems Time Space Position Information technical expert, encouraged volunteerism to give a temporary fix to the budget crisis.
His idea, a policy of volunteer furloughs, would provide a short-term solution to the budget problems on base. He said it would act like a “Band-Aid” to buy additional time to implement other policies.
“We have a volunteer army, if we need more people than volunteer we can draft, but we don’t draft until we have to. As long as we have enough volunteers we don’t have to draft. I was thinking kind of the same thing relative to furloughs. We have enough people, I suspect, that are able and willing and others that aren’t,” said Glazner.
He added that he would like to see people who are living on the edge avoid furloughs or at least reduce them. The idea of permissive leave without pay has been on Glazner’s mind for “quite some time now.” He petitioned for the same policy in his own company prior to submitting it to Project84.
Glazner envisions volunteers being the high-wage earners on base, which means that the amount of money saved per furlough would be higher. The people who make less however, would not be forced to give up the time.
“It’s volunteerism and I recognize there could be problems with that and that it probably would not be a good long-term solution. But, it could buy us time to implement other possible solutions and measures that could be permanent, but can’t be implemented rapidly, so it could give us a little bit of a buffer.”
He added that leave without pay has generally been seen as a punishment and permissive leave without pay is frowned upon. Glazner, however, believes that it would not have to be negative if done on a volunteer basis.
According to Glazner, the idea has potential to be successful for two years, but no more than five because the program would start to experience donor fatigue.
“I don’t know all of the ripple effects, there might not be any. I just don’t know,” said Glazner.
“Project84 is a good idea because often your good ideas are going to come from the people with their boots on the ground,” said Glazner. “I’m really hopeful that something really good will come out of it. Perhaps some of the ideas that management hadn’t thought of can be implemented.”