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Research Questions

  1. What are the current maintainer training requirements, and how might they increase under aircraft maintenance AFS consolidation?
  2. How will an increase in training requirements from AFS consolidation affect the availability of maintainers to perform maintenance?
  3. How much more effective will maintainers be once they are trained on a broader range of tasks under AFS consolidation?
  4. What is the cost of additional required training?
  5. What is the overall effect of AFS consolidation on cost and readiness?

In a climate of declining budgets, Air Mobility Command (AMC) is pursuing strategies to reduce aircraft operating and support costs without jeopardizing readiness. To assist AMC with its effort, RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) considered a number of options targeting unit-level costs. The project team reviewed commercial carrier aircraft maintenance approaches and had discussions with subject-matter experts familiar with Air Force aircraft maintenance practices and policies. Based on those interactions, PAF identified consolidation of aircraft maintenance occupational specialties as having the potential for reducing personnel requirements and costs. The impact of Air Force specialty (AFS) consolidation on active-duty KC-135 maintenance personnel at MacDill, McConnell, and Fairchild Air Force Bases was modeled to address various questions in this report.

The current training requirements for Mobility Air Force (MAF) maintainers were reviewed, with a focus on those assigned to support KC-135 maintenance operations. The study team spoke with subject-matter experts to understand how MAF maintainers currently spend their time and developed scenarios of how maintainer training requirements would change following AFS consolidation.

The assessment suggests that combining KC-135 maintenance AFSs will require significant additional time on the part of maintainers to train, which will reduce maintainer availability to perform maintenance activities. The reduced availability of maintainers following consolidation is potentially offset by the improved utilization and effectiveness of maintainers. The findings suggest that consolidating KC-135 maintenance AFSs according to the construct analyzed would, in the long run, benefit AMC through greater readiness (as measured by sortie generation capability), reduced manpower requirements, or both.

Key Findings

Combining KC-135 Maintenance Air Force Specialties Will Require Significant Additional Time of Maintainers to Train, Thus Reducing Availability to Perform Maintenance

  • The average reduction in availability varied from 7 to 14 percent after accounting for retention considerations.
  • The reduction in maintainer availability is driven by longer tech-school times and additional qualification and upgrade training requirements.
  • The additional investment in training is assumed to be necessary to maintain proficiency once maintainers are expected to perform a broader range of tasks following AFS consolidation.

Reduced Availability of Maintainers Following Consolidation Is Potentially Offset by the Improved Utilization and Effectiveness of Maintainers

  • Analysis using the Logistics Composite Model suggests the utilization and effectiveness benefits of AFS consolidation are likely to be large, and more than offset the reductions in availability caused by additional training requirements.

In the Long-Run, Consolidating KC-135 Maintenance AFSs According to the Construct Analyzed Would Benefit AMC Through Greater Readiness, Reduced Manpower Requirements, or Both

  • If current manpower authorization levels are maintained and fully staffed, KC-135 sortie generation capability would increase by 12 to 14 percent under the AFS consolidation construct analyzed.
  • AMC could reduce its KC-135 maintenance manpower authorization levels by between 17 and 23 percent, without experiencing any loss in sortie generation capability.
  • A reduction of manpower levels by less than 17 percent reaps some reduction in manpower costs while also improving sortie generation capability.

Recommendations

  • Understand how implementation of fewer Air Force specialties will affect Guard and Reserve maintainers, as well as operations at non-Air Mobility Command bases.
  • Before Air Force specialty consolidation is adopted, effort should be made to identify potential implementation challenges and develop strategies for reducing issues of disruptions and turbulence.
  • Evaluate the effects on other fleets.
  • Refine estimates of training requirements associated with technical school and upgrade and qualification training.
  • Evaluate the impacts on accession and promotion requirements.
  • Evaluate impacts on deployed footprint and combat resiliency.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Impact of Air Force Specialty Consolidation on Maintainer Availability

  • Chapter Three

    Modeling the Impact of Air Force Specialty Consolidation on Maintenance Manpower Effectiveness

  • Chapter Four

    Long-Run Cost and Readiness Implications of Air Force Specialty Consolidation

  • Appendix A

    Comparison of United Airlines and Mobility Air Force Maintenance Practices

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Air Force and conducted by the Resource Management Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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