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General Bowlds
Electronic Systems Center commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds speaks to the workforce at the Hanscom Aero Club Hangar today. General Bowlds spoke about fiscal realities, program executive office realignment and new ESC leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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Center commander: More change on the way

Posted 7/22/2011   Updated 7/22/2011 Email story   Print story

    


by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


7/22/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Electronic Systems Center is facing more change in the coming months, ESC Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds told a packed crowd in the Aero Club Hangar this morning.

Acting on direction from the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and internal ESC analysis, General Bowlds and other senior staff members have drawn up a proposed plan that would place all ESC programs under four program executive officers (PEOs).

All of these plans are still considered preliminary while they await Air Staff approval.

When ESC reorganized out of its wing-group-squadron acquisition alignment last summer, programs were divided among six PEOs. Last month the programs under PEO Enterprise Logistics and PEO Enterprise Information Systems were combined into one PEO. The new construct would eliminate one more PEO.

The PEO portfolio to be managed by the three-star center commander would change from the current baker's dozen of high-priority programs to one supporting the Air Force network, data links and information encryption tools. The proposed name is the C4I Networks PEO.

Under the proposed plan, the current Battle Management PEO would retain its name and many of its current programs. The C2ISR PEO would become the Operation Centers PEO, focused, as it largely is now, on air operations centers, intel centers and cyber operations. The Business and Enterprise IT PEO would continue to focus on developing enterprise IT systems and IT acquisition support.

The Cyber/Net-centric PEO would see the most significant immediate change, with many of its programs and personnel aligned under the three-star PEO.

Establishing a C4I Networks PEO, with the three-star leadership, would enable the other PEOs to focus on capability delivery, the general said, noting that they need the right network infrastructure and architectures in place to rapidly field the systems they produce.

The C4I Networks PEO would control the current and future configuration of network systems.

"The Air Force goes to Aeronautical Systems Center when they need to conduct air-worthiness testing," the general said. "But where do they go for network-worthiness testing? This PEO would become that place."

General Bowlds also discussed "fiscal realities," highlighting current budget issues and hiring restrictions, including a more austere version of the Air Force's current 'two-for-one' hiring authority. A $4 million cut to ESC's fiscal year '11 civilian pay budget forced the center into an "emergency-only" hiring mode through September of this year, at least. Even before that, however, staff members were forecasting and sorting through options.

"Our staff read the tea leaves early and started to slow down the hiring push," he said.

Support contracting cuts are also in the offing, he said, with 10 percent reductions likely over each of the next several years and Air Force Materiel Command calling for a 20 percent reduction in FY '12. He noted that the next round of support contracting would be centered on procuring performance, not labor hours, an efficiency approach expected to lessen the severity of cutbacks.

The commander also said that personnel should brace for additional cuts in the coming years, but added that the center is taking a proactive approach to all of this, looking everywhere for potential efficiencies.

"Even our small programs are finding ways to contribute," General Bowlds said.

He also noted efforts to shift staff personnel to program vacancies. Already, the center staff, including the large center senior functionals, has undergone a comprehensive review that will result in a 20 percent reduction in staff size. A PEO staff review will commence in August with division-level staffing reviews beginning in September.

"The division level is where all the real work gets done," the general said, noting that reducing the ratio of higher-level staff to division-level workers would create a healthier, more efficient organization.

The general said the center's workforce remains its number one asset. ESC's best opportunity to thrive despite cuts is to better utilize the skills of its employees, he said.

He noted that he'd formed a team to address the challenges created by trying budgetary times. Specifically, the team will look at staffing and skills required for program success.

The general also noted some leadership changes, including the formal introduction of new ESC Chief of Staff Col. Timothy Nickerson and new ESC Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Call. And he announced some award recipients, including AF Outstanding Unit Awards for both the former 350 Electronic Systems Wing and the 653 ELSW.

Earlier in the call, 66th Air Base Group and Hanscom AFB Commander Col. Stacy Yike spoke about base-specific fiscal concerns, including a projected $10 million gap between next fiscal year's base operating budget and Hanscom's anticipated allotment. Several proactive risk management initiatives have allowed for a reduction in work orders and regular maintenance requirements, but large challenges remain.

The colonel also discussed numerous other issues, including the way-ahead for an Operational Readiness Inspection, now anticipated to occur in spring 2012. She also told everyone about plans for the transition of the Minuteman Club into "The Commons," for which the base has scheduled a Sept. 8 grand opening celebration with fireworks.



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