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Centers bond through working relationship

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In summer 2012, two new and interdependent organizations were introduced into Air Force Materiel Command. As part of AFMC's "5-center construct," the Air Force Sustainment Center and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center were born, and due to their dependence on each other for mission success, they have bonded and formed a tight relationship.

While not without growing pains, the benefits are already starting to show.
"Both organizations are charged with supporting the warfighter and we need to work together in order to do that," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, AFSC commander.

The AFSC, headquartered here, is comprised of more than 32,000 people in five wings, three air logistics complexes and two supply chain management wings in an array of locations. The center is primarily responsible for the supply chain management and organic depot maintenance for various aircraft, engines, missiles and commodities for AFMC missions.

The AFLCMC, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is responsible for systems life cycle management, which includes development, procurement, modernization, and product support for aircraft, engines, munitions, strategic, and electronic and cyber systems in the Air Force. The center is responsible for nearly every non-space system program office in the Air Force, and consists of 26,000 personnel across 77 locations, including approximately 1,700 personnel at Tinker working within system program offices and the Propulsion Directorate.

"Product support is a key part of AFLCMC's mission, and a vital aspect of the AFLCMC-AFSC partnership," said Lt. Gen. C. D. Moore, AFLCMC commander. "In addition to developing and delivering weapon systems, AFLCMC is also now responsible for building and executing the comprehensive plan for supporting those same weapon systems, to include maintenance, software updates, and modifications, and addressing other issues impacting system availability. We can't build and execute those product support plans without our partner in product support, the Air Force Sustainment Center. General Litchfield and I are working closely to advise AFMC and the Air Staff on the overall best product support strategies that best leverage the strengths of our product support providers, to include those within AFSC as well as those within the defense industrial base."

Think of the relationship between the centers as like that between a car manufacturer - AFLCMC - and an auto shop/parts supplier - AFSC. The manufacturer designs and builds the car, handles recalls, and lays out a plan for maintaining the car. The shop/parts supplier performs the maintenance, advises the manufacturer on the maintenance plan, and provides the parts necessary to ensure continued operations.
Col. Mark Beierle, acting director of the AFLCMC Propulsion Directorate, headquartered at Tinker, said the propulsion enterprise is a good example of the partnership.

Consider, for example, the B-52 Stratofortress and its eight engines. The Propulsion Directorate builds the engine maintenance plan, in close consultation with AFSC, and provides the technical documentation. To implement the plans, the Propulsion Directorate relies on two of AFSC's Tinker based units: 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group, which performs the recommended maintenance, and the 448th Supply Chain Management Wing, which ensures the 76th PMXG has all the parts necessary to complete their work.

"What we do is work the relationships so the right people can come together to solve problems, and I think that's happening," Colonel Beierle said. "Quite frankly, there are great partners out there and great people trying to solve these propulsion challenges. They work well together."

Michael Barrett, 76th PMXG deputy director, agreed, adding the relationship better positions the Air Force for the future and helps it adapt to new workloads.

"It allows us to be more cost effective, which is very important in a fiscally-constrained environment," he said. "The relationship also enables us to meet the country's defensive needs at a lower cost, while maintaining the viability of our depots."

As the two centers found their footing, Mr. Barrett said some of the challenges AFSC faced included learning how the two centers' forerunner organizations previously conducted business, communicating differences, and developing standardizations.
"It's always a challenge, but there's been open communication and no one has thrown up the proverbial wall, moat or shield to prevent dialogue," Mr. Barrett said. "In total, even the challenges have been positive because they broadened our knowledge of what's been going on in the organizations."

Colonel Beierle said in the upcoming years, the AFSC and AFLCMC will have to face another challenge - a change in leadership, when officials rotate out to their next assignment. If the processes and standards are not in place, it could cause confusion and difficulties.

But, seeing how far the organizations have already come in just a few short months, the partnership should only strengthen further going forward, the colonel said.