TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Air Force Sustainment Center Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Nov. 21.
The testimony pertained to the organic industrial base within the United States Air Force, and allowed the general to update the members of the committee on the challenges, solutions and readiness impacts. Most prominently, Kirkland focused his statements around two things: investing in infrastructure and investing in people.
With tankers that have been around since the 1950s and new fleets on the horizon, one of the greatest challenges facing the AFSC is maintaining one while preparing for the other.
“Our logistics enterprise effectively uses existing infrastructure across our three depots and two supply-chain lanes to provide cost-effective readiness for a range of legacy weapons systems while posturing for the future,” Kirkland said.
Whether it’s sustaining aging aircraft like the KC-135, and current fighters like the F-35, or preparing for the newest Air Force bomber, the B-21, the depot capacity to maintain the aircraft needs appropriate funding, he said.
“Without investments which assure lethality, maintain readiness, properly fund and train our personnel, and deliver necessary infrastructure, we risk losing our advantage,” the general said.
Kirkland referenced an initial report on the Organic Industrial Base infrastructure in March of this year, which outlined the potential steps.
“This study made clear that even as we smartly use current investments, over the next 20 years we will need resources above current thresholds to modernize across four dimensions of our industrial base,” he said.
A second and more detailed analysis of the OIB report will be released in late 2020.
Kirkland also addressed the diminishing supply and manufacturing base challenges within the Air Force and the accelerated use of predictive analytics. Tools like condition-based maintenance-plus can minimize the time a weapon system is unavailable due to an unscheduled maintenance occurrence. Predictive analytics, Kirkland said, is becoming more mainstream in AFSC, optimizing supply forecasting and essentially generating longer-term efficiencies.
Challenges and solutions to readiness are not limited to aircraft though, as Kirkland emphasized the importance of investing in people. One of the most important investments in recent years has been the implementation of Direct and Expedited Hiring Authorities. In fiscal year 2019, AFSC secured 74 percent of all its hires through these authorities. But, it’s not just hiring employees that is critical – it’s training them, and retaining them.
“Simply having a steady influx of trained personnel … in order to keep the production lines going, that has morale increase,” Kirkland said.
In wrapping up his remarks, the general reiterated that decisions made in Congressional hearings, strategic meetings and thoughtful discussions are ultimately decisions that affect generations to come.
“The Air Force needs stable and predictable budgets to maintain and modernize our critical logistics and sustainment capabilities,” he said. “And consistent funding underwrites our mandate to produce readiness that guarantees our service’s ability to fly, fight, and win.”