General Litchfield vows AFSC will work to become cost-effective

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center located at Tinker Air Force Base, speaks to a crowd of business representatives from across the country gathered Tuesday for the annual Tinker and the Primes event at the Midwest  City Reed Center. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center located at Tinker Air Force Base, speaks to a crowd of business representatives from across the country gathered Tuesday for the annual Tinker and the Primes event at the Midwest City Reed Center. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Despite "budget confusion" in the Department of Defense, the new Air Force Sustainment Center is determined to "provide readiness at less cost," Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, the AFSC commander, vowed Tuesday. "We are going to be cost-effective and provide our nation the capability it needs."

The general made that pledge to 431 contractors, subcontractors, and small-business owners who attended the annual "Tinker and the Primes" conference held in the Reed Center in Midwest City.

The Air Force Sustainment Center is headquartered at Tinker and includes sister bases of Robins, in Georgia, and Hill, in Utah, plus a wing at Scott AFB in Illinois. AFSC is a $16 billion operation with 32,000 personnel, General Litchfield said.

When he assumed command of the AFSC, "I promised mission-ready weapons systems at reduced cost," the general said. "We are in uncertain times and don't know where the bottom of the budget is. But we're not waiting around to find out."

Two factors are exerting extreme pressure on the Defense Department today, he noted.
One is the war in Afghanistan. The other factor is budget ambiguity. "Our final budget for FY13 is not anticipated for at least six months," he related.

Looming over everything is the threat of sequestration: $1.2 trillion in across-the-board federal government budget cuts over a 10-year period, divided equally between security and non-security programs and scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2, 2013, unless Congress agrees to an alternative proposal.

Sequestration would carve another $600 billion out of the Defense Department over a decade, on top of the $480 billion in reductions already mandated, General Litchfield said. Even if sequestration does not happen one could anticipate "something between zero and $600 billion" in additional budget reductions, he added.

Regardless of what Congress does, "We have to be ready ... prepared for the future."
The general acknowledged the critical partnership that exists between the military and the private sector, but challenged the contractors, too.

"Some of the weapons systems we're supporting are 50 years old and will be around for another 30 years, so we're familiar with them," he said. Nevertheless, acquisition and production lead time is "way too long for some of these systems."

The general also spoke strongly about repair parts. "Counterfeit parts manufactured by unscrupulous contractors must stop," he asserted. "They put lives in danger."

Quality "has to be a premium," he insisted. "The AFSC must figure out how to drive down the cost of business while still meeting our mission, and you are the key to making that happen."

Gov. Mary Fallin, who also greeted those attending the conference, said Tinker and the Primes provides an opportunity for the military and the private sector to "network together to find opportunities" that benefit both parties.

Oklahoma has more than 500 aerospace-related companies, and more than 150,000 jobs in the Sooner State are directly or indirectly related to the aerospace industry, which has a $12 billion economic impact, she said. The governor hailed the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker AFB as "one of the largest maintenance, repair and overhaul operations in the world."