JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Teams tasked with tackling the Air and Space Forces’ most challenging Agile Combat Support issues delivered their recommendations April 21 at the 2021 Installation and Mission Support Weapons and Tactics Conference.
Hosted annually by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, the teams pitched their ideas to an audience of more than 500 Air and Space Force senior officials, mission support leaders and their peers during the virtual event.
I-WEPTAC is the Air Force’s only installation and mission support event that provides an innovation forum to help advance Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.’s strategic approach to “Accelerate Change or Lose.”
“We must face the fact the strategic environment is changing and we haven’t changed at the same pace,” Brown told attendees at an I-WEPTAC-related Mission Support Leadership Summit on April 19. “It’s time we accelerate change to tackle our problems and prepare our Air Force for the future so we can better compete, deter, and fight and win America’s wars.”
Conference planning in support of this year’s theme, “The Agile Combat Support We Need: Offsetting Risk,” began more than eight months ago with a call for topics.
“We started with 54 topics last summer, put it out to the enterprise, major commands and Air Staff, then narrowed it down to four problems the Air Force has to get after to accelerate change or lose,” said AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox during his opening remarks. “We think these (teams) and their chairs absolutely did a phenomenal job. They did all the research, they did the analyses and they are ready to present.”
Cross-functional teams of subject matter experts from across the Air Force made up the four teams whose members faced the unique challenge of addressing their topics in today’s COVID-19 work environment.
“2021 has been an absolute huge success,” said Maj. Michael Schumacher, overall coordinator for the event. “After I-WEPTAC was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, we were forced to go back to the drawing board and reimagine what I-WEPTAC could look like if we were forced to go a more virtual route.”
The online forum with many moving parts was an unequivocal success. The briefers delivered their presentations and confidently managed the subsequent question-and-answer sessions with senior leaders. That was a huge accomplishment, according to Capt. Jamela Satterfield, chairperson for topic 2, who admitted things were challenging at the start of the process.
“The experience was kind of rocky at first, not knowing what to do and where I was going (with) this huge Air Force problem,” she said. “Once I got the team built and realized there are a lot of smarter people in the Air Force than me, it got easy. Leveraging folks around the Air Force and their expertise, meeting different people and learning from them was a good experience.”
This year’s teams provided solutions to the following:
- Topic 1: Right Size the Foundation: Optimize Installation & Mission Support for the Air Force We Need
- Topic 2: Strategic Mission Dependency Index for Targeted National Defense Strategy Investment
- Topic 3: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities in the Future “Way We Fight”
- Topic 4: Institutionalize Readiness as a Foundational Competency to Develop Mission-Ready Airmen
The first topic addressed the issue of finding processes or programs that are no longer practical to fund.
“What are the things we need to stop funding because we just can’t afford them anymore? We need to find these resources and reinvest them elsewhere,” said Maj. Steve Emborski, the 2021 I-WEPTAC team coordinator.
The topic 1 and topic 2 teams worked closely together because of similarities in their topics with a focus on how to identify the process for determining how to best invest scarce funding against competing priorities.
Emborski said the third topic focused on getting capabilities to the warfighter during the fight by taking a proactive posture to have advanced, detailed plans in place.
The fourth team “sought to find ways of raising our level of readiness by refining and institutionalizing the way our Airmen shoot, move, communicate and adapt to a changing situation” in order to make them more ready to “fight the fight tomorrow,” he said.
A senior-leader I-WEPTAC Review Board took place immediately after the out-briefs to determine how the teams’ recommendations would get vetted for potential implementation. Designated teams will now convene to study the proposed solutions to make those determinations.
“I’m super proud of the team for knocking it out of the park and being able to bring I-WEPTAC to the Air and Space Force in 2021,” Wilcox said. “We’re ready to act, and we’re ready to accelerate and implement change.”