News>Feature - Maxwell finds ways to meet C-3 challenges
A portable computer tablet sits on top of the mountain of material it replaced. In 2011, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Air Education and Training Command commander, challenged Airmen in the command to save $3 a day, and the tablets are one way that Maxwell Air Force Base is using technology to meet that cost-conscious culture challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Voss)
by Master Sgt. Michael Voss
Air University Public Affairs
10/9/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The phrase "cost conscious culture" has become as familiar to Airmen as the base dining facility; however, at Maxwell, C3 is not just a catch phrase, it is mission essential.
In 2011, Gen. Edward Rice Jr., Air Education and Training Command commander, challenged Airmen in the command to save $3 a day by stretching pennies into dollars or making better use of resources they have available. This challenge prompted the base and the Air University to look closely at every level of its missions, seeking more efficient and effective ways of training tomorrow's Air Force leaders.
"We are entering a time period of significantly reduced resources, both in manpower and money," said Lt. Gen. David Fadok, the AU commander and president. "We turn to our junior officers for fresh ideas on how to do our business more effectively and more efficiently even in light of reduced resources. Continuous process improvements, coupled with a culture of cost consciousness, will permit us to allocate our limited resources toward the most critical force development activities, thus allowing us to preserve and expand the asymmetric advantage our adversaries call the United States Air Force."
In order to achieve these savings Airmen will have to seek more creative ways than just turning out the lights at the end of the day or duplexing prints, and everyone will have to pitch in.
"When you look at world-class organizations, like Maxwell, seeking more efficient ways of doing business is what they do," said Col. Trent Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. "Airmen have to do this throughout the Air Force or external pressures placed on the Department of Defense budget will force mandated cuts."
It is estimated that if every Airman across the Air Force saved $3 a day, the savings could add to more than $3.5 billion per year. Within AETC, the figure would be $37 million in savings, with $8 million a year in savings at Maxwell alone.
The chief of budget for the Air University said C3 is also about spending money prudently and getting the best value for the money.
"Part of cost conscious culture is about ensuring that you are not wasteful. If there is a better, cheaper way to do things, we have to look at that," said Gayle Mead. "The first option should not be just spending money, but also ensuring we are spending the money on necessary things."
According to Mead, the reality of ongoing Department of Defense budget cuts causes a need for a change in mindset.
"In the past, the culture was that if we did not spend funds, we didn't need them, and we ran the risk of not getting funds when we really did," she said. "I don't think resource advisors were buying frivolously, but there is a difference between needs and wants."
According to base leaders, every cost-saving measure is on the table, from thermostat settings to energy conserving light bulbs to government vehicle preventative-maintenance contracts versus in-shop repairs. The search for savings extends into the heart of the Air University's mission: education.
"C3 goes far beyond cutting off the lights," said Edwards. "We have to ensure Airmen are still supporting the national defense strategy, but not simply doing things because of an instruction that is outdated by technology. This is where we rely on everyone to respectfully say, 'Sir, there is a better way of doing this.'"
Changes to achieve savings include ongoing efforts to transition some AU courses from traditional classrooms to distance and blended learning.
For example, instead of having 8,000 students coming to Maxwell for a six-week course, students could come here for a two-week course, with the other four weeks being facilitated via distance learning.
"Doing this cuts the per diem expenses significantly," said Mead. "It costs $65 to $75 a day per student in just per diem. In addition, by having a blended learning experience like many colleges, we can educate more Airmen each year."
The Air University vice president for academic affairs said saving money is not just cutting things; it is being smarter about doing business.
"Today, we are using technology like Defense Connect Online versus going on temporary duty, but we are also doing things like using computers to replace printing," said Dr. Bruce Murphy.
As an example, Murphy points to the Air University Board of Visitors program. Annually, the 35 secretary of defense-appointed board members meet at Maxwell to validate AU's academic processes and programs.
For each meeting, Murphy's staff produces about 45 comprehensive briefing binders for each BOV member and AU and center commanders.
"The binders are built months out, but as we get closer to the date of the meeting, they often need revised or changed, costing time and manpower," Murphy said. "That is a lot of paper, printer ink, binders and manpower costs associated with building and maintaining the binders."
A couple of years ago, a suggestion was made to move from printed materials to computer tablets.
"We sent out a study to board members to see if they were opposed to the change, and the response was overwhelming in favor of the change," said Murphy. "Actually, more than 50 percent of the BOV had their own tablets."
That year, the BOV purchased 15 tablets.
"It was an upfront cost, but we loaded the materials to a website, allowing the members to access the briefings from home," said Murphy. "Things like binders are 'old school'. Board members would request that we package and mail them the binders, which cost postage."
Murphy said that the tablets have more than paid for themselves over the past couple of years. Furthermore, when not in use, the tablets are on loan to AU staff.
Within the wing, Airmen are making small and large changes to save money. For example, runway lights are turned off when the runway is not in use and video teleconferencing is used for commanders and spouses' orientation instead of traveling to AETC.
"I want Airmen to feel empowered," said Edwards. "We need Airmen to think about things like what technology could be used in areas like the visitor's center, which could free up security forces manning."
Leveraging technology is not the only step in the process of achieving $3 a day in savings. Base leaders encourage supervisors to do things like schedule civilian compensation time for employees who are required to work overtime or reassess how many software license purchases are needed for their offices.
"These are just a few examples, but we are changing the way the Air University, Maxwell and the Air Force are doing business and saving taxpayers' money," said Mead.