- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Air Force is eyeing Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews as the possible location for a new center that would oversee base operations for the service’s major commands, according to internal Pentagon documents.

The cost-cutting strategy, which is being discussed among senior defense officials but has not yet been shared with Congress, calls for the creation of a consolidated Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, according to a draft of the plan first reported on Tuesday by The Washington Times.

The center would help the Air Force meet a goal of trimming about 20 percent of headquarters operations costs by 2019.

Another Pentagon document outlines how Air Force officials have narrowed the potential bases for the center to six. The revelation comes amid mounting scrutiny from former and current Defense Department officials, several of whom have reached out to The Times this week pointing to potential problems with the strategy.

At issue are a series of decades-old think tank and government oversight reports that slammed the Pentagon for attempting to implement a similar base command consolidation strategy during the fierce round of defense budget cutting that followed the close of the Vietnam War.

SEE ALSO: Air Force plan to strip generals of authority

A 1970s initiative that pooled the base-related support services for four Air Force bases and an Army post in south Texas failed to achieve cost savings goals and proved to be “less responsive in providing services than conventional, base-level organizations,” according to a 1983 analysis compiled by the Rand Corporation. The operations oversight venture was known as the “San Antonio Real Property Maintenance Agency,” according to a 1989 Government Accountability Office Report.

Initial cost projections, which indicated that consolidating the buildings and grounds maintenance functions would generate about $2.2 million per year, were later deemed unrealistic by the government oversight organization. As Air Force officials struggled to achieve that goal, they found themselves amid a “flurry of firing and hiring” civilians employees in order to handle the workload while refraining from exceeding set manpower caps.

Established in October, 1978, the agency ceased to exist by 1989, according to the report.

Despite such history, the documents obtained by The Times suggests one of the main reasons for creating a new consolidated command center would actually be to soften the strain being placed on military personnel by ongoing pressure to trim overall defense budgets.

The document outlines how officials want to put the new center under the authority of Air Force Materiel Command. One of 10 Air Force major commands, Air Force Materiel Command provides acquisition management and logistic support to the Air Force’s war weapons so that they can be deployed when needed.

The potential locations for the new center were selected based on a variety of criteria, including whether they had the right amount of “move-in ready” administrative space available and were capable of undergoing and completing an environmental assessment within a six-month span, according to the document.

Air Force officials want to start establishing the center this October so that it will be fully operational by October, 2016. The officials hope to make a final basing decision in August, according to the document.

But despite the tight timeline, officials have yet to notify Congress of their consolidation goals, with the document showing that the Air Force is not scheduled to discuss the plan until next month.

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