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Tinker and the Primes conference brings key players together to talk combined innovation

  • Published
  • By Chris Seaton
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Air Force and government leaders spoke heavily on the themes of partnership and innovation in the face of emerging threats during the annual Tinker and the Primes conference, held at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City August 8-11.

The conference, hosted by the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce, provides an opportunity for defense contractors to connect with DOD leaders and understand the needs of the Air Force in sustaining an aging fleet.

This year’s attendees included more than 1,200 representatives from multiple prime and secondary contractors, government agencies, academic institutions and small businesses.

Tinker’s status as the home of the Air Force Sustainment Center and the largest of the service’s three air logistics complexes makes central Oklahoma a hub for conversations about partnering for aerospace defense sustainment.

During the week, conference attendees learned about the base during tours and a presentation about base initiatives from Tinker’s 72nd Air Base Wing Commander, Col. G. Hall Sebren, Jr.

“It’s hard to replicate what Tinker is and what Tinker does – not only for the Air Force but for the entire DOD,” said Sebren. “There are 45-plus mission partners and six operational wings on this base, and there is not another Air Force base like it in the entire world. It is strategic and tactical and everything in between for how we produce combat power for the United States.”

Guest speaker, U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK), who sits on the committee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, acknowledged the difficulties private enterprises have faced in navigating federal processes. He said Tinker and the Primes represented a way for contractors to figure out how to get through the door to engage.

At the local level, this engagement included presentations from the Air Force Materiel Command Commander, Gen. Duke Richardson; Air Force Sustainment Center Commander, Lt. Gen. Tom Miller; and Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Commander, Maj. Gen. Jeff King, whose complex is the Department of Defense’s largest maintenance, manufacturing, repair and overhaul activity.

For the second year in a row, King urged contractors to focus more on innovation to help the Air Force sustain its fleet.

“We have got to find better ways to partner to accelerate change,” said King referring to Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. CQ Brown’s ongoing challenge to the force: “Accelerate Change or Lose.”

“Because this is a team sport, this is also a challenge or mandate for industry and academia,” he said. “We need to work closer to determine long-term workloads to benefit both the commercial and organic industrial base if we are to ensure the viability of America’s defense industrial base to support the next conflict.”

Senior military leaders at the conference referred frequently to emerging threats from China and Russia, whose nuclear capabilities have caused concerns among Pentagon leadership in recent years.

For the U.S. to compete and maintain a competitive advantage, strong partnerships between the military and the contractors who sustain the fleet, driven by the Air Force’s operational imperatives, are key.

“We’ve got to find a way to both transform using the operational imperatives but also to maintain readiness for the fleet that we have,” said Richardson. “Tinker plays a huge role in that, both increasing lethality and maintaining readiness.”

Tinker and the Primes is a production of the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with Tinker Air Force Base and multiple industry partners.