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May 14, 2010—Air Force Materiel Command is adopting a new organizational construct built on directorates, divisions, and branches to operate, officials believe, more effectively at acquiring and sustaining the service's weapon systems.

Later this year, most AFMC units will shed their current command structures based on wings, groups, and squadrons in place since 2004.

The command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, aims to establish more clear lines of authority and accountability via these changes. This goal is one of the pillars of the Air Force-wide acquisition improvement plan, or AIP, that was launched in May 2009 to address shortcomings in the service's acquisition community and bolster that workforce's numbers.

Air Force headquarters approved the AFMC conversion plan on May 11. The targeted implementation date is June 30. AFMC officials say all of the command's centers will see some changes, but the realignment will be manpower-neutral, meaning no jobs lost or gained.

Gen. Donald Hoffman, AFMC boss, hinted back in February that these changes were coming. As far back as fall 2009, officials with the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., one of AFMC's product centers, also predicated such moves.

On the surface, it may appear that AFMC is simply reverting to the directorate-based structure that it had prior to 2004 when it took on the wing model. But AFMC officials say that's not the case.

Back in 2004, the belief was that by more closely mirroring the operational Air Force in organization, AFMC would improve efficiencies and speed the introduction of new technologies to airmen. That didn’t fully pan out.

Under the new realignment, AFMC officials say an extensive list of wings, groups, and squadrons will be inactivated, activated, or re-designated. These changes act upon the Air Force's new guidelines, issued in September 2009, that mandate that wings now must contain 1,000 or more members; groups, 400; and squadrons, 35.

Hoffman said most of the command's units are not large enough to maintain the appropriate wing, group, and squadron designations under the new guidelines.

Plus, he explained, "Combining units to meet the size thresholds would have been major surgery and would have buried senior acquisition leadership at the squadron level or below."

Wings, groups, or squadrons inactivated will be replaced by new directorates, divisions, and branches, which do not have mandatory minimum manning thresholds.

Along with changing to directorates, several new program executive officer positions have been created to lead many of the directorates at the product centers.

AFMC organizations switching to the directorate-based model are the: Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson; Air Armament Center (excluding the 46th Test Wing) at Eglin AFB, Fla.; Air Force Security Assistance Center at Wright-Patterson; Arnold Engineering and Development Center at Arnold AFB, Tenn.; and Hanscom's ESC.

For example, ASC is building five directorates: agile combat support, fighters/bombers, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance/special operations forces, mobility, and tanker.

ASC commander Lt. Gen. Tom Owen will also serve as PEO for Aircraft overseeing those five directorates. He said in a May 12 release these adjustments would "significantly improve communication and oversight of programs."

Among the changes at AFMC's three air logistics centers, aerospace/aircraft sustainment wings will be inactivated and replaced with aerospace sustainment directorates. These three depots are at: Hill AFB, Utah, Robins AFB, Ga., and Tinker AFB, Okla. The maintenance wings at these locations will be unaffected, said AFMC officials.

They also noted that the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., will retain its 498th Nuclear Systems Wing, but some of the center's groups and squadrons will be inactivated.

(Includes Wright-Patterson release) (For background on AFMC's switch to the wing structure in 2004, see Operational Acquisition from the archives of Air Force Magazine.)