The Air Force announced on March 22 a new Infrastructure Investment Strategy following a yearlong review that brings new analytical tools and focus that will enhance readiness at bases worldwide.
The new strategy marks a significant shift in the way the Air Force maintains facilities, using new analytics and practices that better predict when work must be done. It also changes the “worst is first” approach to facilities prioritization that the Air Force has used for years because it delays needed upkeep until it is very expensive. Instead, the Air Force will demolish the oldest 5 percent of its buildings and maintain infrastructure before it becomes very expensive.
“This new approach is going to make a difference on our bases for decades to come,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “We’ll get more out of every dollar we are spending and, over time, we will improve the quality of life of our Airmen and their families.”
From hangars and runways to operations centers and ranges, the Infrastructure Investment Strategy will require every base to have a master plan and prioritize projects based on mission need. The Air Force fights from its bases, which means resilient infrastructure is important to mission readiness.
The new strategy calls for the Air Force to fund 2 percent of replacement value of its buildings each year, which is at the low end of what is recommended for facilities. Advanced modeling and simulation done in support of the strategy shows that these things taken together — a base level of funding, a new way to prioritize projects and destruction of 5 percent of the worst infrastructure — will result in significant improvements in facilities condition over the next two decades. The Air Force requested $2 billion in additional spending for infrastructure in its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 as part of implementing the strategy.
“We will commit to a base level of funding and use data to inform decisions,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “Ultimately, this is about making targeted investments at the right time and in the right place. As an Air Force, we fight from our bases and must keep them ready to meet our national security challenges.”
While the goal of this strategy is the long-term readiness and resilience of Air Force installations, it also tackles the infrastructure maintenance backlog across the Air Force.
The backlog has expanded as a result of several years of work that has been delayed for a number of reasons.
“Between budget challenges and competing priorities over the last several years, leadership at times was forced to postpone and re-prioritize infrastructure maintenance,” said John W. Henderson, Air Force assistant secretary for installations, environment and energy.
“I2S is a necessary improvement of our existing approach to infrastructure investment to ensure maximum benefit amid limited funding,” he said.
Additionally, the strategy recognizes the critical role Airmen play in the health and strength of bases.
“The ability of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center to gather and assess big data for the first time from across the Air Force enterprise is at the core of the strategy,” said Maj. Gen. Bradley Spacy, AFIMSC commander. AFIMSC, headquartered in San Antonio, played a key role in developing analytical tools used to gauge the health of the bases, Air Force officials said.
But key to the new strategy succeeding is skilled Airmen.
“Infrastructure resilience is critical to our ability to fight, but the mission succeeds or fails at the squadron level,” said Brig. Gen. John Allen, the Air Force director of civil engineers whose team at the Pentagon helped drive the new approach. “So we’re focused on supporting our civil engineer Airmen to sustain this strategy for the long haul.”
While the I2S is an important advancement, Congress will now consider the fiscal year 2020 budget for the Air Force and how that process unfolds will dictate actual spending. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.