Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Spreads its Wings
Two years into full operation, the center looks to agility, advanced training and data analysis to support a more efficient Air Force.
The need for increased efficiency drove the U.S. Air Force to pursue its biggest reorganization in the last 25 years, the creation of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, or AFIMSC. The restructuring pulled together 150 capabilities, centralizing how the service delivers installation support, expeditionary support and resources. AFIMSC encompasses civil engineering, financial management and financial services, installation contracting, security forces and services activity, which includes recreation, lodging, child care, fitness and other support. It is the sole intermediate-level headquarters in charge of providing installation and mission support capabilities to the 77 Air Force installations, nine major commands and two direct reporting outfits, according to the center.
Bringing all these elements together was not an easy feat, AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Bradley Spacy, USAF, told SIGNAL Magazine during a recent interview at the Association of the Air Force’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. “It’s not a small thing what has gone on to put those [capabilities] together,” Gen. Spacy said. “First, brute force them together, then over the last two years, we’ve been transforming them to make it all work smoothly together, reducing the redundancies and organizing our integration execution activities.”
The transition has sometimes been rocky, the general said, “only because we’ve moved a lot of cheese. There were cultural shifts for everybody.” However, he contends that the requirements for efficiency, which is what drove the need for consolidation, resulted in the best decision for installation mission support. “We’ve changed everything from the base level to the major command to the headquarters Air Force, by inserting this new command in between everybody,” Gen. Spacy explained.
The next step is for the center to maximize the benefits of the reorganization. “And that is huge,” the general exclaimed. “The potential of this organization, for positive impact, we are just scratching the surface, and we have 53 initiatives out there already.”
One focus of the AFIMSC is to hold an annual Installations Weapon and Tactics Conference. Modeled after the Air Combat Command’s Weapon and Tactics conference, known as WEPTAC, the installations version of the event—called I-WEPTAC—is going on its third year. It brings together senior Air Force leaders, mission support officials, military engineers and the industry to examine state-of-the-art, agile combat support equipment and technology, AFIMSC stated.
“In the operational community, they’ve had a WEPTAC conference for 30 years, and it is where they get young minds together to think about hard problems and come up with innovative solutions,” Gen. Spacy noted. “We’ve never had that in the installations mission support side. So we worked with Air Combat Command to mirror their processes and work arm-in-arm with them as they develop operational challenges for us to pick up the support piece. What has come out of it is that we found new ways to train and new ways to organize for combat support.”
Experience from I-WEPTAC also has taught the AFIMSC new ways to advocate for, identify and build requirements, which is already informing the budget process. “Are you kidding me, two years into this and we are already changing the way we budget,” the general said.
In addition, the center is looking at how to prepare airmen to face the next domain. “We think that the operational environment of the future is going to require us to be much more agile than we’ve historically been,” the AFIMSC commander warned. “Even back to the Cold War, we knew what the threat looked like, it was tremendous, but we knew what it looked like. Now, the threat has become much more agile. And we are being required to push fewer airmen, further out, to be surrounded more by the combat environment than ever before.”
Airmen will be required to do more, and will need to improve their capabilities through cross-functional or multifunctional training. “Cross-functional training means learning some more things outside your specialty, while multifunctional training is turning each airman truly into a multifunctional capability” Gen. Spacy explained. “That is what we are working on right now.”
For example, one working group at I-WEPTAC came up with a concept that AFIMSC is currently considering: how many airmen does it take to launch airplanes in a very austere combat environment? They are assessing all angles. “Can security forces help rearm and refuel; can maintainers help defend the base; can engineers and communicators help repair the runway together?” the general questioned. “And what are the efficiencies once you get there?” Center officials examined 20,000 lines of the Career Field Education and Training Plan, looking at skill classifications to find like skill sets. “And so now the magic is finding out how much an airman can handle of those different skill sets, and how long it takes to train and keep those levels current,” Gen. Spacy said. This week, the AFIMSC is field-testing those concepts and performing other training exercises at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and other installations, he added.
As for the AFIMSC’s role in base communications, the center is responsible for legacy communications and infrastructure. “There is a lot going on, as we look at enterprise information technology as a service and how we can have industry leverage some of those normal network maintenance, and care and feeding efforts,” the general shared. Because the center most likely will always have legacy communications, cable, antenna and voice to manage, the AFIMSC is “working really hard to get our arms around the state of the actual enterprise,” Gen. Spacy stated. “It doesn’t have a good sustainment management system or database, so we are building that right now to make sure that we capture it.”
The center also is leveraging technology “to help us all do our jobs better,” the general continued. “This is the idea of using data to develop predictive analysis models, as well as so-called ‘prescriptive’ analysis, getting beyond predictive analysis into prescribing how we should act, or what I call shaping. Let’s get away from just predicting or even prescriptive to actually shape the environment to change the requirement.”
The maintenance community is looking at expanded use of mobile devices to improve maintenance capabilities, while enterprise staff are working to provide connectivity and better virtual networks for airmen and military families. “And we're leveraging the cloud like everybody else,” the commander stated.
In addition, the AFIMSC is looking for industry solutions to help solve long-term problems, such as the challenge of communicating across different security classification environments. “That's a big challenge,” Gen. Spacy noted. “I think industry has the keys to [providing data communication] that is securely translated across different security levels.”
Lastly, the AFIMSC, like many other organizations in the military, want to know how to best leverage artificial intelligence and how to create semi-autonomous or autonomous systems that assist airmen.