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Joint basing plan moving foward

Posted 2/8/2008   Updated 2/8/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/8/2008 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Department of Defense officials recently released initial guidance for joint basing implementation, providing a roadmap for joint basing mergers. 

This detailed guidance, released Jan. 22, is a step towards implementing the Base Realignment and Closure 2005 Joint Basing recommendations, which established that the Army will jointly manage installation support functions for Fort Lewis and McChord by 2011. 

"The driving force behind joint basing is to search for efficiencies and effectiveness in merging installation support functions between different services. In pursuit of these efficiencies, we're working closely with our Fort Lewis counterparts to identify commonalities in our support functions," said Col. Jeffrey Stephenson, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. 

Colonel Stephenson stressed that the operational missions of the two installations will remain distinct under the merger. There have been many details to work out since the plan became law in 2005. 

"Signing of the Joint Basing Implementation Guidance pushes the process forward, since it represents the resolution of some key issues at the Defense Department level and enables progress to continue toward the establishment of Joint Base Lewis-McChord," said Lt. Col. Anne Marie Scott, director of joint basing for McChord. 

The toughest challenge has been reaching a common definition of terms and level of support, said Col. Frank Rechner, 62nd Mission Support Group commander. 

"Organizationally, we are aligned differently," he said. "For instance, our supply system is standardized across the Air Force. The challenge lies in integrating that system into another service while maintaining our flexibility and effectiveness." 

"It's important while we are working through these issues that we make sure the Army and the Air Force requirements can both be met," Colonel Scott said.

Colonel Rechner noted airfield operations are going to be managed by the 62nd AW's commander "on behalf of" the joint base commander, which means the Air Force will have to write a variance to continue to operate the airfield as a mission asset. 

"That's one of our core competencies (airfield operations), what the Air Force does, and does very well," Colonel Rechner said. 

"That's not to say some things cannot be combined where it makes economical sense, and we've already done that on both installations' perspective," said Colonel Rechner. "It is my position that before anything is moved we've got to do a very in-depth requirements analysis and process determination. It's got to be more efficient to be combined. By more efficient, I'm talking dollars. There's got to be a cost benefit to do this, or else we're just combining things for the sake of combining." 

One thing that will not happen during the implementation of joint basing is Airmen directly supervising or reporting to soldiers. 

"Airmen work for Airmen, and that is a core tenant of the United States Air Force," said Colonel Rechner. 

Another potential misconception is that joint basing is related to Program Budget Decision 720, which mandated the reduction of Air Force manpower to save money. 

This perception is false, said Colonel Rechner. 

"They are two totally separate, unrelated things that happened to come out about the same time," he said. 

Both services share a concern for people, and McChord and Fort Lewis have already been working together for several years in many areas. A good example is Madigan Army Medical Center, which provides care to area patients of all branches. 

"With such an outstanding facility so close," said Colonel Rechner, "there has been no need for McChord to have its own hospital." 

Conversely, he noted that there are Fort Lewis families who use McChord's child development center. 

"Done right, joint basing has the potential to enhance our effectiveness," said Colonel Rechner. "We want to do this very deliberately, very methodically, so we do it right. There is no second chance to do it right the first time."

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