Air Force makes case for realignment to improve test and evaluation capabilities

  • Published
  • By 200870
An Air Force senior official briefed area community leaders May 13 on the proposed creation of a new center that would realign Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) and two other units to enable the Air Force test and evaluation community to work together more effectively at providing better service for the development of weapon systems.

Though not the primary objective of the proposal, this effort would result in some cost savings from improved efficiency across the organizations, the official said.

Dave Bond, the executive director at the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), Edwards AFB, Calif., and Air Force lead for improving the test and evaluation process, gave a presentation at the Arnold Lakeside Club to more than 50 Arnold Community Council members, congressional staff members, state legislators, county and city mayors, business and community leaders, on the proposal to form the Air Force Developmental Test and Evaluation Center (AFDTEC) that would be headquartered at Edwards AFB, Calif.

This effort is part of a larger Air Force initiative to improve the way the service does business known as Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21).

AFSO21 is a push to improve processes to find cost savings that can be re-allocated to help recapitalize the service's aging aircraft fleet. The average age of the fleet is currently 23 years old - the oldest in Air Force history.

Under this proposal, AEDC, which would be redesignated the 704th Test Wing, the 46th Test Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., and the 412 Test Wing at Edwards AFB, Calif., would be realigned and report to the AFDTEC headquarters. Currently AEDC reports to Air ForceMateriel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

With the standup of AFDTEC, the Air Force Flight Test Center would stand down.
According to Bond, the majority of the AFDTEC staff would be distributed at all three wings and be comprised of approximately 136 people.

Bond explained the need for major command realignment within the Air Force.

"We'll give you the bottom line up-front," he said. "The needs and expectations of our customers - the warfighter, the Congress, and this would also include the acquisition community, especially those in program development - have changed.

We as a test community have not kept up with that change as quickly and as dramatically as we could have and in fact, should have. We're going to have to work to improve our processes and revitalize our work force."

Bond said the Air Force's leadership has concluded they have to change their way of doing business with regard to the development test and evaluation process for a number of reasons. These include the highly dynamic Global War on Terror, budget pressures, the increasing age of the Air Force's fleet, the rapid rise in fuel costs and the economic pressures of the rapidly escalating cost of healthcare and support for personnel.

Bond gave a detailed account of how the team spent more than a year to identify where and how to best address these changes.

"We've done a lot of work, especially over the last 18 months," he said. "We've looked at how we can get better and the things we need to do. We've come to the conclusion that an alignment of authority and responsibility and resources was a prerequisite for sustaining change."

He described the proposed realignment as a dynamic process, not an end in itself.

"We need to grow and then build on that change to get better as we look to the future," he said. "There will be some deficiencies, but it's not about a budgetary exercise, this is really about getting better."

Bond said this effort would not result in any forced personnel moves or layoffs but 200 jobs would be shed through attrition over time, resulting in cost savings over the course of the three years. Moves by government civilian employees would be voluntary and encouraged.

Bond explained that the creation of AFDTEC is only the beginning of a much larger effort.

"This is the first step of a longer road process," he said. "Our vision is to setup a direct reporting unit reporting to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force that would include all Air Force test organizations."

According to Bond, this will standardize management practices and processes across the Air Force and allow for better, more cost-effective test planning for weapon systems, such as a next generation fighter aircraft that will need testing at Arnold, Eglin and Edwards.

Bond proceeded to put the realignment proposal into the context of history and recent world events.

"We are a nation at war," he said. "At times it is easy to forget that. We, as an Air Force, have got to sustain the warfighter. We've got to sustain and modernize the fleet that we are flying and we've got to invest in the people. And we've got to do all those things simultaneously.

"We're dealing with increased costs and we're dealing with pressure on the top line of the Air Force budget. One example, JP-8 fuels costs have more than doubled for the Air Force from 2003 to 2006. We are the largest user of (aviation) fuel in the (federal government)."

He also addressed the budgetary impact to the Air Force for supporting the troops who are forward deployed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Keeping aircraft inventories up and modernized are impacted by the overall environment we're dealing with. We have to support the ground troops, the Army and Marines, because they're the ones who are taking the brunt of the war overseas right now," he said. "They need our help and that is impacting the Air Force and our ability to modernize and do our job, to fly and fight."