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AFMC executive director discusses challenges

by Airman 1st Class Julius Delos Reyes
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

9/13/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN)  -- Air Force Materiel Command's top civilian leader discussed several challenges facing the Air Force, including the increasing costs of personnel and military health care, during a speech to the International Test and Evaluation Association Antelope Valley chapter Sept. 5 here.

Barbara A. Westgate, AFMC executive director, was the featured speaker during ITEA's meeting at Club Muroc on Edwards Air Force Base. 

The International Test and Evaluation Association is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1980 to further the exchange of technical information in the field of test and evaluation. Association members include professionals from industry, government and academia who are involved in the development and application of policy and techniques used to assess the effectiveness, reliability and safety of new and existing system products.

Mrs. Westgate's speech was in conjunction with the meeting's theme, "Perspectives on career development, leadership and current issues with AFMC and the Air Force."

She also talked about issues "percolating all over the command," including the newly mandated permanent change of station guidelines, and civilian and military system changes.

Over the past 10 years, the Air Force's operational costs have increased more than 179 percent; military health care has more than tripled, and personnel costs increased by 60 percent, Mrs. Westgate said.

Adding a toll to the Air Force's back is the higher operations tempo putting stress on members.

"We are beating up (our people) every day to do more with less, except you can't do more with less; you can only do less with less," Mrs. Westgate said. "Yet, we expect unreasonable things from humans who are just that -- humans."

This is setting the Air Force up for mistakes and failure, she said.

"Our personnel numbers have decreased, but we are doing the same flying programs," Mrs. Westgate said. "We have 14 percent (of our fleet) that are either grounded or restricted. This tells us the compelling need to recapitalize."

This recapitalization would bring the capability needed to fight the war on terrorism, she said. Though with the higher operations tempo, the Air Force also needs to remain vigilant.

"We have to prosecute the war today, yet our senior leaders have to plan for the war in the future," Mrs. Westgate said.

She said this is where testers and evaluators come in. She cited what the test and evaluation community has done to help with the advancement of technology, including the recently tested Fischer-Tropsch fuel.

"We have to be able to create a head room to make investments for the future," Mrs. Westgate said. "We have to maximize every dollar that is available to us."

In November 2006, Air Force leaders directed assignment-related initiatives to reduce the permanent change of station budget deficit. The new guidelines include changes to assignment availability Code 50 maximum stabilized tours, the standard time on station for certain members transferring between stateside bases and officers departing for professional military education, overseas assignment curtailments, funded joint-spouse assignments, as well as the officer time-in-area policy.

With this initiative, enlisted members and officers in the support, judge advocate, chaplain and medical career fields as well as most rated staff positions are now subjected to a 48-month TOS minimum before being considered for a PCS between stateside bases unless mission requirements dictate otherwise.

"There has been a lot of angst about the four-year tours," Mrs. Westgate said. However, the Air Force would save money from this initiative, which also will allow military people to focus on their schedules and technical assessments on the programs they have started.

"Previously, we have invested two years on these people," she said. "They are just learning something and then they are going and moving." 

The four-year tours are also beneficial to families as this won't allow any disruptions, she said.

Another issue Mrs. Westgate addressed was the National Security Personnel System. NSPS is part of the Department of Defense's transformation efforts to better meet 21st century challenges. It is a performance-based, results-oriented, personnel-management system. Pay under this system is linked to individual performance toward meeting organizational objectives and mission goals and is administered through pay pools.

"NSPS is a really tough thing to run," Mrs. Westgate said. Civilian personnel who are in leadership positions should have an expectation they intend to meet, she said. "They need to meet the minimum requirements that any military person has to meet to hold that leadership position."

Both military and civilian members in leadership positions should take both corporate-level professional military education and have their master's degree, Mrs. Westgate said.

"If you want to lead an organization, we expect you to have both," she said.

Mrs. Westgate also talked about the importance of physical wellness and of maintaining a balance in life between work time and personal time. Even successful people, such as those in her audience, she said, sometimes need reminding of the Air Force's wingman concept and its emphasis on helping co-workers.

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