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A Look Air Force Materiel Command history, Part II

  • Published
  • By Jack Waid
  • Air Force Materiel Command History Office

Note:  This is the second in a three-part historical series on the history of the Air Force Materiel Command in honor of the organization's 30th anniversary. Part I is available at

On June 30, 1992, the Air Force inactivated Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) and Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), allowing for the introduction of a new, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), on  July 1, 1992.  The Air Force activated AFMC at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio with resources of the inactivated Air Force Logistics and Systems Commands.  The new command consisted of 19 centers scattered throughout the United States and approximately 125,000 military and civilian personnel charged with the mission of integrated management of research and development, test, acquisition and sustainment.  Some of the more specific missions of AFMC, upon activation, were program management; support and industrial operations; science and technology; test and evaluation; and base operating support.  Also, AFMC activated a Technology Transition Office at its headquarters to help speed science and technology transfer from AFMC laboratories to technology centers at other military installations and the private sector.  The intended purpose was to make AFMC a single, streamlined organization combining expertise in research, development, acquisition and testing, while gaining the Nuclear Systems Management mission for the Air Force and inheriting the R&D role performed by AFSC. 

Gen. Ronald W. Yates, AFSC’s last Commander, took command as AFMC’s first commander and focused on Integrated Weapon System Management (IWSM) as it was the cornerstone philosophy for acquiring, evolving and sustaining the command’s products.  It empowered a single manager with authority over the widest range of decisions and resources to satisfy customer requirements throughout the lifecycle (cradle-to-grave) of the product. 

Additionally, upon activation, Yates established a Command Management Framework (CMF) of five separate mission areas to carry out such diverse corporate functions as policy-making, decision-making and resource allocation.  This management concept focused on mission elements instead of the traditional two-letter organizational approach to management.  The Command also launched a new initiative called Integrated Product Development in an effort to gain the utmost efficiency in producing the command's many products.  By the fall of 1992, AFMC continued to look at streamlining and increasing efficiencies.  One effort reexamined the Command’s multiple centers in an effort to reorganize them in accordance with the objective wing model while reviewing Command Direct Reporting Units and Field Operating Agencies to determine the validity. 

At the core of AFMC's product management was a modern defense acquisition model with its roots deeply embedded with World War II. The WWII process was torturous, and it produced tardy weapon systems and was costly and often defective. Throughout the 1960s, innovations such as fixed price and incentive contracts attempted to acquire weapons that were on time, cheaper and functional. The Air Force (and other services) greatly standardized acquisition processes -- resulting in strict adherence to a four-phase system acquisition life cycle process.

Also, during the 1990s, AFMC was dealing with multiple Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) directives.  More specific directives were set in motion by the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990.  The BRAC was based on the Department of Defense estimates-- it was operating with 20 percent more infrastructure than needed to accomplish its missions.  It established the framework for the relinquishing of military assets, specifically military installations to civilian control.  AFMC escaped serious damage from "BRAC 93" but, the command was not unscathed during the remaining “BRACs” of the 1990s.  During the early years of the 90s, the command lost Newark AFB, and the Rome Laboratory would become an enclave.  After AFMC and headquarters, U.S. Air Force, submitted closure and realignment recommendations, this resulted in the closing of, and converting or “privatization-in-place,” for the following installations: Kelly and McClellan AFB’s, Sacramento Air Logistics Center (SM-ALC) and the San Antonio Air Logistics Center (SA-ALC).  Additionally, AFMC managed to avert a Reduction in Force (RIF) in fiscal year 93 through application of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and separation pay incentives.

In the early 1990s, responding to the concerns of private industry, the Command revised depot maintenance contract bidding and performance guidelines and practices.  Under the Lean Logistics program, the Air Force moved from a reparable supply system driven by historical consumption-based, and projected needs to a system based on aircraft availability goals and actual spares requisitions.  Lean Logistics would reduce the number of spares in the reparable pipeline and cut pipeline flow times.

AFMC participated in several disarmament treaty compliance activities including: the destruction of B-52s; providing Space and Missile Systems Center personnel for Ukrainian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) dismantlement planning activities; modifying an OC-135B for Open Skies surveillance flights, administering the Reentry Systems Launch Program; participating in the Minuteman III Single Reentry Vehicle Modification Program; and developing AFMC chemical weapons agreement (CWA) implementation and compliance plans.

The 1990s also started with AFMC’s involvement in multiple munition and aircraft innovations.  Command acquisition specialists focused a considerable amount of attention on two troubled programs: the Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM) and the C-17 transport aircraft.  This was due to the markedly changed international situation and Gulf War experiences. AFMC supported the Air Force in revising basic doctrines related to operations logistics doctrine

Some of the newest and most important acquisition programs in the 1990s were: Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); Common Missile Warning System (CMWS); Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD); and Airborne Laser (ABL).  AFMC, responsible for procurement and sustainment of all Air Forcer engines, accordingly became thoroughly involved in solving propulsion problems-notably in F100 and F110 series engines.  Also during 1995, Acquisition Reform (AR) was fast becoming an institutionalized DoD strategy for acquiring more effective and more affordable weapon systems. 

Some of the most significant acquisition programs overseen by AFMC, while supporting ARs, as put forward by Darleen A. Druyun (SAF/AQ civilian deputy) in the closing years of the 1990s, were the B-2, F-117A, F-22, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), Airborne Laser, Joint, Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Joint Signal Intelligence Avionics Family,  CV-22 Osprey, Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS), AIM-9X missile, Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) and the HARM Targeting System (HTS).  Finally, the PACER AMMO program, developed by AFMC munitions specialists, greatly improved procedures for transporting and pre-positioning large quantities of diverse ordnance.

Prepositioning Fleet

Throughout the 90s, AFMC reengineered itself to become a more responsive supplier of parts and service to the warfighter.  Prior to the start of the air war in Kosovo, AFMC leadership directed the command’s logistics, product and test centers to lean forward in support of the eventual conflict.  Several hundred military, civilians and contractors began deploying to support NATO operations as a part of Operation ALLIED FORCE and the Air War portion named Operation NOBLE ANVIL.

One of the more interesting aspects of Operation ALLIED FORCE is the use of prepositioned ships utilized by the Air Force Preposition Fleet (APF).  The APF’s inception occurred in 1997 and during the time of Operation ALLIED FORCE, APF operations were assigned to the Readiness Division, APF Program Management Team at Ogden Air Logistics Center.  The Air Force’s Preposition Fleet was an integral part of the AEF concept and part of the larger Strategic mobility triad of airlift, sealift and pre-positioning-- all critical components of rapidly deploying combat forces and sustaining these forces.

Prior to Operations ALLIED FORCE the APF consisted of three ships: SS (Steam Ship) Austral Rainbow, the MV (Motor Vessel) Buffalo Soldier and the MV Capt Steven L. Bennett (USAF Medal of Honor recipient), in total carrying 50,000 tons of munitions for Air Force fighter and bomber aircraft...valued at over $1 billion.  The focus of AFMC leadership was not always on munitions and aircraft, as Airman Quality of Life issues received attention.

Airman Quality of Life/Health and Wellness

Throughout the decade of the 90s, quality of life issues affected all AFMC personnel, and several programs addressed those needs. AFMC became concerned with housing quality, so AFMC leadership pursued initiatives to upgrade accommodations for both families and unaccompanied enlisted personnel. To enhance overall readiness, AFMC, in conjunction with the Air Force, began to promote a healthy lifestyle establishing a new fitness program and opening Health and Wellness Centers at each AFMC installation.  AFMC formulated policies to reduce tobacco consumption, conducted training and education to combat the negative effects of sexual harassment in the workplace and finally, continued the efforts to improve the child care services.  Command leadership even took time to make sure computers transitioned to a new century.

Computers will stop working

As early as 1998, in the area of information technology, AFMC played a major role within the Air Force to mitigate the challenges posed by the approach of the Year 2000 (Y2K).  AFMC was responsible for maintaining many data systems supporting critical weapon systems, and mounting an intensive program to identify vulnerable systems and compliance.  In addition, AFMC took on the responsibility of achieving Y2K compliance for all Air Force centrally managed infrastructure items.  AFMC succeeded!

Toward the second century of flight

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, AFMC quickly transitioned to a wartime posture in support of the United States’ Global War on Terror (GWOT).  Along with other Air Force elements, AFMC immediately provided support to Operation NOBLE EAGLE—the defense of the US Homeland.  To support NOBLE EAGLE and other GWOT initiatives, AFMC utilized “Technology Push” and “Technology Pull”.  Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) scientists and engineers used Technology Push to conceive ideas applicable to the battlefield and quickly passed them on to the combat forces.  The more traditional Technology Pull provided combat forces with a mechanism to make their needs known so AFRL could develop new technologies or modify existing ones.

Also during this time AFMC delivered other new and old capabilities, enabling the warfighter to successfully engage the enemy.  The Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) was deployed just in time for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and enabled high altitude precision bombing using cluster bombs.  The Joint Directed Attack Munition (JDAM) also became especially effective with its widespread employment via satellite guidance.  The JDAM quickly became the mainstay of aerial bombardment with 1,000- or 2,000-pound weapons delivered by a variety of aircraft.  In the early 2000’s, weapons and aircraft were not AFMC’s only priorities.  Leaders focused much attention to the needs of AFMC military members and families in the form of Privatizing military family housing and the Fit to Fight program; this, along with many other topics, are discussed in Part III.