TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla --
When Lt. Gen. Tom Miller walked in the doors of the Air Force Sustainment Center headquarters this summer, he was walking a well-known path, but this time he carried with him the charge of a new responsibility as commander of the almost 40,000 Airmen who comprise AFSC.
Since that day, he has spent much of his time visiting units and meeting the Airmen who bring the mission to life, learning how they are approaching their particular mission set and addressing challenges that come their way.
“What is really encouraging to me is the innovative way people attack problems across the sustainment center - everything from the incredibly consequential impacts of COVID-19 on the mission and the tragic impact it has had on many families … to dealing with aging weapons systems that have declining vendor bases,” Miller said. “I’ve seen incredible examples of innovative ways of getting after both enduring problems and new problems.”
Miller previously served within AFSC as deputy commander for Maintenance at Ogden Air Logistics Complex, commander of the Oklahoma City ALC and vice commander of AFSC. “Kim and I are thrilled to rejoin this team,” he said. “Whether it’s uniformed Airmen or civil servant Airmen, they’re serving their country during a difficult time. We appreciate them dedicating their professional investment into defending our country. It’s not an easy thing to do and we’re surrounded by people who do it really, really well.”
Supporting ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ as conceived by Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Brown will require both flexibility and cost consciousness for the sustainment center, he said.
“We have to be ready to pivot and support the readiness needs of the United States Air Force,” Miller said. “And we have to do it in a way that not only delivers airplanes and engines and parts back to Airmen at the end of the operational chain, but we have to do it in a cost-effective way so that it’s affordable.”
I think most are aware that, sustainment makes up the majority of a weapon system’s lifecycle costs.
“We live in a fiscally constrained environment. As our Air Force faces escalating costs in both newly fielded weapon systems and those made before I was born, we have to continue to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of sustainment while maintaining the readiness our nation needs. Miller said. “Those step change improvements are hard to make anywhere except in the sustainment center.”
The focus on readiness is steeped from real-world, high-level priorities. “When the SECAF opens his speech at [the Air Force Association] with ‘I have three priorities – China, China, and China’ – that’s not a subtle message,” Miller said. “I think we get into a false sense of security that we might not ever lose, and I don’t think that is true. The potential is there for us to lose if we don’t change what we’ve done in the past.
“CSAF framed it for us really well. Accelerating change is exciting. Losing is scary.”
To Miller, the road to success lies in prioritizing the center’s four strategic goals:
- Drive cost-effective combat readiness
- Deliver supply chain readiness to enable combat power
- Develop mission assurance enablers
- Develop and support Airmen
“In all four of those areas, the common success ingredient is trust,” Miller said. “People operate better when they’re trusted.”
With the sustainment center geographically dispersed among 24 locations, trust is an especially essential element of leadership. When Miller first became a group commander, his wing commander pointed out that it was the first time Miller was the commander of commanders. “A couple decades in the Air Force and I had never thought of that,” the general said. “It had an impact on me. You’re not doing everything yourself. You can’t. You should be accessible to people, provide them expectations, and break down the barriers they present to you. And then trust them to execute their mission.”