A fast-tracked plan to consolidate Air Force base support functions has hit a significant bump, with planners missing a crucial deadline to rollout the cost-cutting proposal to members of Congress amid heated opposition from the service’s top generals.
Air Force officials initially intended to notify lawmakers of the plan to strip the service’s generals of their base operations oversight during the first week of June, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times, which first reported details of the proposal last month.
But the self-imposed deadline to submit details of the plan, which would consolidate authority for base operations under a single center, came and went last week.
In addition, the proposal was widely criticized internally during a meeting Friday that involved several three-star generals. A Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting, said critics objected that the financial management aspect of the plan is convoluted, figuring out who would be making specific decisions is complicated, and merging together funding lines seemed confusing.
The meeting, with Maj. Gen. Theresa Carter, the special assistant to the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, was the second time since the plan’s inception that top brass within the Air Force have objected to the concept.
“Basically, they sent her packing in terms of, ‘Go back and do more homework,’ ” the official said.
The endeavor would shuffle day-to-day base management issues — such as construction, maintenance and procurement of equipment and supplies — from under the authority of the senior generals who command the bases to the leadership of a two-star general who would run the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, according to the draft proposal.
The center is the service’s in-house effort to reduce headquarters operations costs at least 20 percent by 2019. Air Force officials want the center in place by Oct. 1 and to have it fully operational by October 2016.
But that timeline might now be in question.
Air Force documents obtained by The Washington Times state that “continued delay in public announcement puts timeline at risk.” One document in particular shows that the reason the service has been rushing to unveil its cost-savings plan to Congress is because service officials wanted to conduct environmental assessments in July and decide where to base the center in August.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email that the plan to establish the center has many moving pieces and nothing has been set in stone.
“The Air Force is still working through the details of its centralization efforts; therefore, any information being discussed is predecisional and subject to change,” she said.