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Research Questions

  1. What are the current functional responsibilities, manpower authorizations, life-cycle costs, and other characteristics of the restructuring plan proposed by Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)?
  2. How would the realignment of AFMC's component organizations likely affect life-cycle management, weapon system sustainment, and support to the warfighter?
  3. How could weapon system life-cycle management functions be carried out effectively and efficiently in the Air Force?

Directives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense mandating reductions in operations and maintenance staffing levels led Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) to reexamine how it operates; the command published the plan for its proposed reorganization in November 2011. In response, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 directed the Secretary of the Air Force to have a federally funded research and development center provide an independent review of the proposed reorganization. In January 2012, RAND Project AIR FORCE was tasked to conduct this review, the purpose of which was to describe the functional responsibilities, manpower authorizations, and disposition of AFMC's proposed restructure, including an assessment of life-cycle costs; to independently assess how realignments would likely affect life-cycle management, weapon system sustainment, and support to the warfighter; and to examine options for providing effective and efficient weapon system life-cycle management. The resulting analysis was limited to how the reorganization would affect product development/support-system design and operations support (depot maintenance and Air Force supply chain operations). It did not examine how the reorganization affects the management of nuclear weapons, developmental testing, or laboratory and basic research. For context, the report also includes a comprehensive overview of the history of Air Force life-cycle management and the changing roles and responsibilities of the organizational precursors to AFMC.

Key Findings

The Proposed Restructuring of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Reduces Annual Costs Through Staff Reductions

  • An examination of AFMC's organizational change request and staffing documents revealed that the restructuring would eliminate 1,051 staff positions from overhead and administrative functions, saving approximately $109 million annually.
  • The restructured command would retain all current critical line functions.

There Is No Single Best Way to Organize Weapon System Life-Cycle Management; Each Organizational Option Presents Opportunities and Challenges.

  • Among the opportunities under the new structure for AFMC is the appointment of a lieutenant general as commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. This change will provide opportunities to improve organize, train, and equip support to all product development/support-system design personnel and their staffs. It will also provide an opportunity to standardize core best-practice product development processes and introduce support considerations early in the acquisition process.
  • Another opportunity comes with the appointment of a lieutenant general as commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, who will supervise all depot maintenance and Air Force supply chain operations. This change has the potential to improve operations support efficiencies by standardizing maintenance and Air Force supply chain operations across all air logistics complexes (formerly air logistics centers) and may facilitate command and control of Air Force supply chain operations to meet warfighter needs.
  • One challenge under the new structure concerns horizontal integration and collaboration among product development/support-system design personnel and operations support personnel in different chains of command. This division could complicate communication.
  • The new structure also raises questions about the training and experience associated with supervising product support functions, as well as the expanded workload for program executive officers, in addition to product development and operations support career management and leadership development.
  • Finally, although AFMC has established a governance process that has addressed several of the challenges associated with the reorganization, others still need to be addressed.


  • In implementing its proposed restructuring plan, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) would benefit from incorporating lessons and best practices in continuous process improvement.
  • Attention should be given to measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of product development/support-system design and operations support functions and to continuously monitoring the new structure's efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to warfighter needs, resolving problems and implementing improvements as needed.
  • Four options for modifying the reorganization plan and improving Air Force life-cycle management, presented in the report, could enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the new structure. AFMC can select among the options or pursue all four.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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