A Cost-Conscious Culture

April 4, 2014: Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, is trying to “develop a cost-conscious culture” through an initiative dubbed the “Road to a Billion and Beyond.”

AFSC “has documented improvements of [$786.7] million through savings and cost avoidance” measures in Fiscal 2013, Litchfield told the Daily Report.

With R2B&B, “we’re trying to develop a cost-conscious culture,” he said in an April 4 interview. We need to go from being effective to cost-effective, he added.

Litchfield emphasized the need to be more cost-conscious and to “balance everything out” as funds are transitioning away from a wartime operating budget to a peacetime operating budget.

In a recent white paper, released April 1, Litchfield introduced the concept of weapons system cost-effective readiness. In order to achieve CER, Litchfield outlined eight tenets, which include finding ways to provide more readiness for the same cost or today’s readiness for less cost; using scientific, data-driven decision-making processes to achieve the best cost benefit; funding only to required readiness targets and not above and beyond; and finding opportunities to trade volume for velocity.

“We have two choices,” he wrote. Either “accept the costs and reduce capability or change the way we do business.”

AFSC has managed to create efficiencies in a variety of areas by saving and using cost avoidance measures, Litchfield said. In the operating arena, AFSC reduced its execution cost and drive efficiencies while maintaining weapons systems. In the supply chain arena, AFSC learned to make better, more accurate predictions. In infrastructure support, “we’ve been able to actually accelerate and be more effective [in reducing] the actual amount of energy it takes to sustain our bases,” he said.

Another concept AFSC is looking into is surge and recovery modeling, which is still in the research stage and is being sponsored by Air Force Materiel Command.

The concept looks at “how do we posture from a peacetime operation … to a high-end fight where we have to have a lot of capability?” said Litchfield. It’s an “exciting initiative,” he added.

In the Air Force’s 2014 posture statement, service leaders said they had to cut maintenance to facilities, in most cases by 50 percent, due to sequestration.

AFSC is “heavily dependent upon our infrastructure,” said Litchfield. “Our infrastructure is really what I would consider our readiness,” he said. But in many cases, these World War II-era buildings are not seeing any “preventive maintenance.”

The “inability to upgrade infrastructure” slows efficiency when “you find things like water leaks in heating systems” or other damages that need repair, he said.

“It makes it very difficult to keep our infrastructure dependent [and] … operating so that we [can] get efficient operations across the fleet. And that’s really the problem that we have,” he added.

If the Air Force adopts the tenets found in the white paper, one of the biggest challenges will be the “time it takes to transition” them, said Litchfield. Some of the tenets will take a while to implement while others “will take longer.”

Additionally, as in any large organization, there are “gaps and seams” between planning, executing, and funding, he said. “What you have to have is constancy of purpose, constancy of effort,” in order to make the tenets become standard operating procedures, he said.“Time is always a factor when you’re trying to do culture change.”