Operating Location Air Force Plant 42 has begun its transition from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to the 412th Test Wing.
The initial operational capability plan took effect May 1 and the full operational capability date is scheduled for Oct. 1, to avoid making financial changes mid-fiscal year.
The 412th TW Operating Location provides base operating support and airfield management functions to Plant 42. Currently there are roughly 170 personnel present for duty, but under the 412th Test Wing, there will be 196 billets to handle the organic sustainment, maintenance, security and safety of the installation itself.
“Operating Location Plant 42 is like a small or mini air base wing providing the care and feeding kinds of functions to the Air Force Plant 42 property,” said Lt. Col. Gene Cummins, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Detachment 1 director at Air Force Plant 42.
Within the plant, there are two types of contractor facilities – contractor-owned and contractor-operated. The “COCO’s” function like private companies. The second type are government-owned, contractor-operated facilities. For the government-owned facilities, the Operating Location acts as a “landlord.”
“Although the contractor pretty much runs on their own, provides their own internal security and those kinds of things, we’re the landlord,” said David Smith, 412th Test Wing Installation Support director. “We make certain that the roads are open, there’s a fire capability available, that we have some security capacity, the basic infrastructure is all there. And we have a runway there, so the runway requires operations, requires maintenance and that runway is very important to the mission.”
Under the new alignment, the 412th Test Wing first line supervisors “for the most part” will remain the same. Out of 196 billets, only three supervisors are expected to change. Instead of reporting to Wright-Patterson AFB, personnel will now report to the 412th Test Wing. While the transition will cause some “background” changes, the day-to-day duties of personnel will not change.
“The only thing that’s really changed is who provides that ownership and authority for the day-to-day mission, what we call the [Base Operations Support] functions,” said Smith. “If you look at this from the perspective of an employee at Plant 42, what you did yesterday, do that tomorrow.”
Cummins added, “Something might change on their office symbol, something might change on their funds site on their paycheck, but other than that, it should be transparent. It’s intended to be cut and paste, nothing is really changing at the plant itself.”
Prior to 2011, the Air Force presence at Plant 42 was a very small detachment from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The detachment, an acquisitions organization, managed a contractor that provided the base operational support. After insourcing to all Air Force civil service personnel, the alignment “no longer made sense.”
“In its entirety we have transitioned that from Agile Combat Support at Wright-Patterson AFB, which was an acquisitions organization to the test wing, which understands base operation support and infrastructure support better than the acquisition organization did,” said Cummins.
The transition, while it won’t change daily functions, will come with some added benefits, like assistance from Edwards AFB. For instance, if a water main breaks at Plant 42, 412th Civil Engineering Directorate will be able to offer their resources more readily because “they’re part of our 412th family,” not an external organization calling for help.
“The other part of it is the proximity of Edwards,” said Cummins. “We were already getting many support functions from Edwards, our civilian personnel function aligns with Edwards for our network connectivity; our financial management side of the house.”
The real estate at Plant 42, however, is still managed by Wright-Patterson. For instance, land leased to defense contractors, is still managed and maintained through Wright Patterson. The transition only affects man power and physical resources.
“We all want to focus on success, a cohesive mission environment,” said Smith. “That’s what we’re doing at Plant 42.”
Plant 42 is home to some NASA operations, large contractors such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and employs about 9,000 people.