TRAVIS Air Force Base, Calif. – One of my favorite sayings is “flexibility is the key to airpower.”
As sequestration takes hold, coupled with budget constraints, it may become our battle cry. We live in uncertain times and the resources that appeared abundant last year will have to stretch in order to cover our mission.
The definition of resource, according to Webster’s dictionary is, “a source of supply or support, an available means, or an ability to meet and handle a situation.” Obvious resources in the military utilized to accomplish the mission are people, money, equipment and time. As our resources become limited, the programs we must have will directly conflict with the nice ones to have.
The traditional meaning of air power has always been to get the aircraft in the air to support the fight. As Airmen, all of our jobs are important to this mission, even if we do not fly, fix or fuel the airplanes.
Some of our most important resources are our civilian workforce. To continue the mission, each unit will need to determine how to best utilize this resource within a constrained environment.
Our active duty force may have to cover the duties that our civilians perform. Planning this coverage should occur in each unit to prevent gaps in service. Additionally, if service hours are limited, communicating adjusted hours or clear directions to the person who can help is essential.
Money for equipment and supplies will be limited. Think before you print slides or handouts for meetings. If the slides can be sent out ahead of time, individuals may be able to download them onto a laptop or iPad. If handouts absolutely need to be printed, ensure you print the minimum amount necessary and use black and white versus color.
Supervisors and commanders need to make the hard calls and deny unnecessary temporary duties and authorize only mission essential training and travel. Unfortunately, this is probably not the year to buy new furniture or expect year-end funds as we previously enjoyed.
The last resource is time. In the event we lose our civilian workforce, we will need to effectively schedule personnel to compensate for the approximately 20 percent reduction in hours across the board. Maximize the hours available to cover your key customer service product lines by identifying your highest-volume days or periods of time. Scrutinize time that personnel are out of the duty section and ensure that your remaining workforce is readily available to take care of the mission.
As commanders, we take primary responsibility to prevent lapses in service. We need to communicate when we are unable to provide the service so other units will not waste time by sending personnel, only to find out a shop is not open.
Flexibility is required by all of us to keep the mission going. Some personnel will need to stretch to cover the furlough of our civilian Airmen. Elimination or reduction of non-mission essential events will decrease time away from duty sections. Smart utilization of all available resources is necessary for all of us to support the air power mission.