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Facilities, IT top themes in AFMC We Need study

Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, discusses the initial results of the AFMC We Need initiative launched in July 2019. The goal of the study is to identify ways to best posture the command to meet the requirements of the National Defense Strategy and the Air Force of the Future.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Facility quality and information technology infrastructure topped the list of concerns identified through the Air Force Materiel Command’s AFMC We Need initiative, now in the survey analysis and implementation stage.

The command-wide study launched by Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr. shortly after he took command in May, aims to identify ways to best posture the command to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy and the Air Force of the future.

“I truly believe that our Airmen are our most precious resource, and their candid feedback will drive the changes we need to make in this command in order to operate at the speed of relevance for the Air Force we need,” said Bunch. “I have personally spent several days reviewing the survey comments and know we can shape our future together.”

More than 88,000 inputs were received from command-wide online questionnaires, and in-person focus groups. Additional interviews with senior Air Force leaders and key AFMC customers offered external perspectives on AFMC operations.  Every AFMC Airman, civilian and military, had an opportunity to participate and provide ideas for improvement and change across the mission footprint.

“Capturing both the internal and external perceptions of AFMC was key to this initiative,” said Col. Patrick McDonnell, AFMC We Need team lead. “We not only wanted to know what our people were seeing, but also how we are perceived by those outside AFMC who we work with on a daily basis in support of the Air Force mission.”

While facility quality and the reliability of IT infrastructure are at the top of the list of concerns regardless of AFMC location, the remaining results can be categorized under the following focus areas:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Resources
  • Culture/Morale/Resiliency
  • Manpower/Staffing
  • Authorities
  • Personnel Management/Appraisal Systems
  • Incentives
  • Administrative Burden
  • Organizational Structure

The surveys revealed that a number of organizations were already coming up with innovative solutions to local issues, but findings showed some of those local issues were actually across the command.

“Some of the problems they were solving locally were actually more widespread. The solutions had the potential to help Airmen not only at their installation, but also across centers and even the whole command. When possible, our Field Working Group members made those connections,” said Kimberly Norman, AFMC We Need strategy lead. “Going forward, as we continue to review the inputs, we hope to do more of that.”

Though solving facilities and IT issues will require a longer-term solution, said Bunch, there are some areas where the command has already taken steps towards improvement. One of these areas is manpower and hiring.

Since the implementation of the AFMC civilian hiring pilot program in October 2018, the command improved the civilian hiring timeline by 11%. Widespread use of Congressional hiring authorities has brought new, skilled talent to AFMC organizations. Streamlined processes at AFMC centers has also led to manpower improvements.

“We are seeing improvements in this area, and I recognize we still have a ways to go,” said Bunch. “We need to do a better job of communicating these to you so you can understand where we are going.”

Communication was another broadly commented on area in the study. Better communication across all levels of AFMC and with external stakeholders was identified as an acute need. How we communicate our mission to the Air Force and each other is critical, said Bunch.

“It is crucial that every AFMC Airman understands just how important our mission is to the Air Force and how each of us impacts national security,” said Bunch. “We do our wartime mission every day and we need to build a strategy to make sure that everyone inside and outside of the command knows this.”

Survey results also revealed that in order to support Air Force needs in the near-peer competitor environment as identified by the National Defense Strategy, AFMC needs to be more agile and innovative, rather than fixed on delivering limited, predictable solutions. Organizational stovepipes and inconsistent delegation of authorities were perceived as limiting factors in this area, in addition to a need to better model industry and promote cross-enterprise collaboration for problem solving.

“Some of the changes we need to make will not happen overnight,” said Bunch. “But we are already moving, and I will keep you apprised of our efforts as we continue to move forward.”

Bunch has established a new office under Maj. Gen. Carl Schaefer, AFMC deputy commander, to facilitate and track changes across the organization. The headquarters team, the Commander’s Accelerated Initiatives Office (AFMC/CDX), will continue to analyze survey data, identify and prioritize areas for command focus, and facilitate rapid implementation of recommendations.  

“The new AFMC/CDX office will continue to grow the strong partnerships with the field that we started during the initial AFMC We Need phase. This is integral to making needed changes as we move forward towards the AFMC the Air Force needs,” said Norman, who will lead the new office.

As the changes begin to be rolled out across the command, Bunch expects Airmen to continue to be supportive and open-minded to transformation.

“A ‘no’ attitude is not going to support our efforts to drive to the AFMC We Need,” said Bunch. “I expect everyone’s help in looking at things differently to help the command move forward. It’s the power behind the 80,000 innovative and committed AFMC Airmen that will get us to our destination, the AFMC We Need, to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy and the Air Force of the future.”