An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

USAFE-AFAFRICA infrastructure under pressure

  • Published
U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa is seeing the ripple effect from sequestration. Budget cuts for this fiscal year to facilities sustainment and restoration are expected to cause readiness issues now and into the future.

Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, the USAFE-AFAFRICA interim commander, said these cuts will affect USAFE-AFAFRICA installations' ability to serve as conduits for mobility, communications and logistics.

"USAFE-AFAFRICA brings critical capabilities to accomplish missions we have regularly performed in the past and are expected to perform in the future," Jones said. "Airpower is vital to the success of U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command and other combatant commands in world-wide operations."

Airmen and aircraft assigned to USAFE-AFAFRICA are responsible for 105 countries on two continents covering territory spanning 19.7 million square miles. The forces here are positioned in key locations designed to enable all Department of Defense assets to rapidly reposition into hotspots in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and other contingencies across the globe.

"The current threat environment requires the ability and flexibility to provide multilateral response options to complex, cross-national security threats," Jones said.

While the threat environment includes fluid and ever-changing actors, USAFE-AFAFRICA infrastructure demands require long-term programming and planning.

"We've had to defer four runway repair projects," said Col. Mark Hering, the USAFE-AFAFRICA deputy director of operations. "While we chose those that had the least impact to operations, we understand that any deferment can increase the risk to aircraft and even some risk to aircrews."

Air Force leaders have focused significant attention on sequestration's impact on current flight operations, but little mention has been made of the impact shrinking operations and maintenance appropriations is having on future costs. USAFE-AFAFRICA civil engineers work to prevent mission stoppages; however, mission degradation will occur.

"It is critical that we carefully, manage the risk associated with infrastructure decisions," Jones said. "We are becoming increasingly more selective in where our limited sustainment dollars go."

It's important to understand the timeline of construction and its funding. There is often a delay between paying for and executing construction projects.

"We're executing new projects on an emergency basis only, even as we complete construction of lower-priority projects that were funded in prior fiscal years," said Brig. Gen. Warren Berry, the USAFE-AFAFRICA director of logistics, installations and mission support. "There can be a significant time lapse between when a construction project is approved and funded, and when actual work begins. After groundbreaking, it can take months or even years for projects to be completed."

The approach to spending cuts must be deliberate even with an "emergencies only" mindset.

"We need every Airman to identify ways to reduce infrastructure spending," Jones said. "Innovative, frugal thinking in this area is the key to success."

(Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Public Affairs)