USAF: Building to Last, Leading the Change

Air Force Civil Engineers keep the installation “weapon system” postured to meet the demands of the nation.
By Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, USAF, The Civil Engineer

Air Force Civil Engineers protect Airmen and the mission at the installation, including the ability to extinguish aircraft fires, such as this training exercise at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. PHOTOS COURTESY U.S. AIR FORCE

General of the Air Force Henry H. “Hap” Arnold once said, “Air Bases are a determining factor in the success of air operations. The two-legged stool of men and planes would topple over without this equally important third leg.” His observation still resonates today.

As stewards of the U.S. Air Force’s installations— the Air Force’s power projection platforms—Civil Engineers enable Air Force core missions to national defense: air and space superiority; intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike and command and control. Our installations encompass the complete three-dimensional environment— airspace; the electronic spectrum; and land, including facilities, utilities, natural infrastructure and ranges. Each facet of our installation “weapon system” plays an integral part in the overall effectiveness of our power projection platforms. We must preserve each one to support the full spectrum of contingencies in which we operate, as well as to maintain access to the areas and spaces we operate in.

Air Force Civil Engineers open and establish, sustain, operate, protect, recover, and close or dispose sustainable installations— both in garrison and expeditionary environments. Despite our current budget uncertainty, the Air Force Civil Engineer community is prepared to keep our installations postured to meet the demands of the nation. By leveraging and capitalizing on the skills of our Total Force Airmen engineers, we provide effective and efficient combat platforms to ensure continued mission success today and into the future.

As The Air Force Civil Engineer, I continually challenge our community to “Build to Last and Lead the Change.” FY2014 will be no exception. We will continue to support the joint and coalition fight by providing effective and efficient combat support at our home stations, and around the world. To meet our obligations, we will stay focused on our three strategic goals, which drive everything Air Force Civil Engineers do.

Build Ready Engineers. Civil Engineers will continue to provide effective expeditionary and emergency response capabilities to meet current and emerging Air Force and Combatant Commander requirements.

Build Great Leaders. To ensure we are ready to meet current and future mission requirements, we will access, develop, organize, enable and retain a trained and capable Total Force Civil Engineer team.

Build Sustainable Installations. We will continue to develop and maintain sustainable installations by implementing asset management principles for built and natural assets.

Air Force Civil Engineers remain committed to meeting these strategic goals no matter the complexity of the security environment in which we operate, or the fiscal challenges that lay ahead. Every Airman—military and civilian—and our contractor team is aware of these difficulties, and in true engineer fashion, are ready to turn this challenge into an opportunity.


Civil Engineers are the stewards of the installations from which our Air Force conducts its missions. We fight from these installations, whether they are our home stations or in expeditionary environments. The overall health, condition and sustainability of our installations directly impacts combat readiness.

Reduced budgets are forcing us to focus on making the right investment, in the right asset, at the right time to meet the challenges of a complex global security environment. The FY2014 Air Force installation investment strategy reflects this reality while supporting the Air Force’s priorities. It also preserves our core functions by acknowledging the inseparable linkages between key installation programs, and applying centralized asset management principles to mitigate risk to mission, and risk to Airmen.

At installations across the United States, military construction allows the Air Force to modernize aging infrastructure and support the beddown of new weapons systems, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

We view our installations like weapon systems, and as such, we structured our installation investments in the same way we approach aircraft sustainment and modernization. By making the right investment, in the right asset, at the right time, the Civil Engineer community will keep our weapon system platforms ready to fly, fight and win.


Looking ahead to FY2014, the Air Force budget request reflects an extraordinary effort to ensure we get the most value out of every taxpayer dollar. The request supports a balanced approach to resourcing our built infrastructure investment programs to effectively sustain our installations to support Air Force priorities, as well as enable the Defense Strategy.

Just like the Air Force is recapitalizing its aged tanker and fighter fleet with new, more capable next generation aircraft, we are investing MILCON resources in our “fleet.” This will allow us to modernize our aging infrastructure and support new weapon system beddowns.

In FY2013, the Air Force MILCON program experienced a deliberate pause, prompted by force structure changes resulting in a $900 million decrease in funding. This pause helped ensure we made the right capital investment decisions, while adjusting our force structure in line with the emerging defense strategy. In FY2014, we look to reinvigorate our MILCON program in order to recapitalize aging facilities, while also meeting emerging mission requirements.

The projects covered by the FY2014 MILCON program are aligned with Air Force priorities as well as the Defense Strategic Guidance. The MILCON request will support an array of projects, balancing support for new weapon system beddowns, with the re-balance to the Asia-Pacific theater, and recapitalization of facilities and infrastructure that have exceeded their design life. For example, we plan to support Pacific Airpower Resiliency projects at Joint Region Marianas-Andersen, Guam, and other Pacific locations to support the re-balance to the Pacific. Additionally, we will be looking to fund new facilities enabling KC-46 beddown, and F-35 facilities at several bases within the continental U.S. The FY2014 request also looks to address the highest priority Combatant Command requirements, such as the first increment of the CYBERCOM Joint Operation Center at Fort Meade, Md.

We also are committed to taking care of Airmen and their families, and recapitalizing our worst facilities such as dorm replacement projects, a replacement fire and crash rescue station, and a recapitalized Airmen and Family Readiness Center.


Sustaining, restoring and modernizing facilities is equally as central to Air Force readiness as weapon system sustainment. We continue to fund the sustainment of our existing facilities at slightly above 80 percent of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Facility Sustainment Model. Optimization and efficiencies initiatives— such as strategic sourcing of parts and implementation of standardized, conditionbased maintenance practices—allow us to operate at this reduced level of funding without compromising facilities readiness.

The timely replacement of a cable tie-down on an aircraft arresting system at Aviano AB, Italy, allows Air Force Civil Engineers to achieve their strategic goal of Building Sustainable Installations.

We also are requesting Restoration & Modernization funds to extend the life of our existing facilities, and bring key components to current standards—much like the Weapon System Sustainment program overhauls our legacy aircraft. The Restoration & Modernization program also resources facility consolidation initiatives to optimize our existing footprint, and allows for demolition of excess infrastructure.

To that end, we have requested the resources to support demolition, continuing toward our goal of “20/20 by 2020,” offsetting a previous 20 percent reduction in funding by reducing our physical plant by 20 percent by the year 2020. While this is a difficult undertaking, I am proud of the significant progress we have made.

Lastly, underpinning our installations is our Environmental Quality and Environmental Restoration Programs. We remain good stewards of our natural resources, and our FY2014 environmental program is set to fund all statutory requirements. To support these programs, we have requested Environmental Quality, and Environmental Restoration funding at historical levels.


In October 2012, as part of our CE Transformation initiative, we consolidated three legacy agencies into the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC). While the organizational structure and the name have changed, AFCEC’s purpose has not. AFCEC continues to support our bases and Major Commands as they tackle installation management challenges. The consolidation provides a more streamlined organization, while remaining committed to supporting our Airmen at the “tip of the spear.”

As part of our accelerated transformation, we have changed many of the processes we use to manage our installations. This includes the way we fund our requirements. To be more effective stewards of our austere funds, we have moved to a centralized requirements-based funding model based on the asset management approach. This makes us more proactive in developing and forecasting our requirement “sight picture” to pinpoint the most effective use of funding at the most effective time. We will focus on reducing the “risk to mission” and “risk to Airmen.” In addition, we are moving to a condition-based preventive maintenance program and requirements-based prioritized work order program based on facility condition and key performance indicators.

Asset management provides an element of stability, and changes our approach from competition-based requirements to articulating and advocating true mission needs. Use of asset management principles is absolutely critical to ensure we fund installation requirements on a “missioncritical, worst-first” approach. This ensures each dollar is spent where it is needed most.


Installations underpin all Air Force enduring operational capabilities by serving as warfighting platforms from which we project air, space and cyberspace power. As the Air Force Chief of Staff has articulated in his new vision, we are the world’s greatest Air Force—powered by Airmen and fueled by innovation.

I can say without a doubt, that together with our private and public partners, we too are the world’s greatest engineer force, fueled by the collective innovation born into our engineer genes. Civil Engineers lead the way, and together, we’ll Build Our Installations to Last!

Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Byers, USAF, is The Air Force Civil Engineer. He can be reached through Maj. Joshua Connell, USAF; 703-693-4105, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..