Challenges that lie ahead and a recap of recent successes highlighted Air Force Materiel Command commander Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger’s commander’s call at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Jan. 23.
It was the first of what will be several workforce communication engagements for the general. In the coming months, Wolfenbarger will hold a commander’s call at each AFMC base.
Speaking to a packed base theater crowd, the general acknowledged that 2013 had many challenges. Top among those challenges were budget issues, sequestration and furloughs, all of which in turn had great impacts on mission, quality of life and force management.
“Our challenge now is to figure out how we can get through this period of down-sizing,” she said. “We can do this; we have done it before as an institution. We just have to make the best decisions we can in a non-optimal resource environment. I ask you to bring forward all those good ideas that are out there, because now is the time.”
Wolfenbarger also noted that the AFMC mission – through the AFMC workforce – thrived despite the many challenges.
“As I look back, I want to say how proud I am of the progress we made last year, despite the environment,” she said. “Operating in the new organizational construct has proven tremendous, even powerful, in terms of how it has enabled more mission-effective and more cost-effective operations for us as a command.”
In just one year of operations under the new five-center construct, AFMC avoided or saved $2.7 billion while expertly accomplishing the mission, the general said. That number is only expected to grow.
In looking to 2014 and beyond, Wolfenbarger emphasized the importance of fostering a culture of respect and resiliency, saying everyone has a responsibility to be accountable for himself or herself and to be accountable as a Wingman.
AFMC command chief Chief Master Sgt. Michael Warner, who also spoke at the commander’s call, echoed the general’s perspective.
“We need to be empowered to protect both ourselves and our coworkers from physical, mental, sexual or negligent misconduct,” he said. “We all deserve to be treated with trust, care, dignity and respect.”
Other topics the general and chief addressed as key this year included continuing budget concerns and force management issues.
The recently signed Bipartisan Budget Act increased the Air Force topline budget by approximately $6 billion over sequestered fiscal 2014/2015 levels, which Wolfenbarger noted gives the Air Force some — though not complete — relief and also gives the service some budget certainty.
The general also talked about the Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed on Jan. 17, which restores flying hours and weapon system sustainment; protects the “Big-3″ investment programs (i.e., F-35, KC-46, and Long Range Strike Bomber); provides additional Facilities, Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization funds for installations; and notes that no administrative furloughs are planned for fiscal 2014.
In terms of force management, Warner reiterated that the Air Force is taking 25,000 active duty reductions between now and fiscal 2019 – and plans to take most of them early, at the front end.
“We’ve had drawdowns in the past, but this time we’re taking actions that we’ve never had to take before,” he said. “We’re going to ask some Airmen who are superstar performers to leave. The key for us is that we have to take this seriously: read the guidance, know your vulnerabilities, know your options, talk with your supervisor.
But take it seriously. Make sure you have all the information you need to make the right decision in a difficult situation.”
Wolfenbarger concluded her commander’s call by thanking the entire workforce for their many contributions to AFMC’s success.
“As we proved last year, we will continue to execute our critical mission despite the environment,” she said. “I am so proud of this command. Despite the difficulties and the churn and the uncertainties, you were able to excel at what our Air Force asked of us and demanded of us. And I maintain that you all are up the challenge of doing that again this year and into the future.”