Breakout program helps local businesses benefit from base contracts Published Sept. 14, 2007 By Amanda Creel 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- The U-2S program is breaking out and saving time, energy and money by utilizing the expertise of local Middle Georgia businesses. The 560th Aircraft Sustainment Group, which sustains the U-2 program, has been using the Breakout program since 1985 and the program has helped the Air Force avoid spending millions of dollars since its inception. "It's all about breaking items away from the prime contractor and going to local shops in the Middle Georgia area," said David Whiddon, Breakout program manager. "The takeaway is we partner with the local small businesses and save a tremendous amount of money," said Debbie Ball, chief of the weapon system supply chain management division. Mr. Whiddon said not only does the program positively impact the local economy, it does so at a very significant cost reduction to the program compared to the costs of using prime weapons systems contractors. The Breakout program, which is charged with finding and utilizing local vendors and shops to produce and repair spare parts for U-2 ground support equipment, spends between $1.5 and $2 million each fiscal year and the estimated cost avoidance or savings of the program is about $4 to $5 million annually. Many local shops involved in the program sign letters committing their shop's services 24 hours a day, seven days a week to fulfill the needs of the warfighter and the U-2 mission. One of the businesses involved in the program is Stone Machine and Tool Inc. in Jeffersonville, Ga. The business, which is a machine shop specializing in fabrication and ground support refurbishing, is one of the local businesses who has committed to meeting the needs of the U-2 program and the war effort. "All of our employees take great pride in supporting the war on terror," said Lana Stone, president and owner of Stone Machine and Tool. Ms. Ball said one of the perks of utilizing the small local businesses is their enthusiasm. "They are so proud and very eager to help. If they know we need a part they'll work extra hours to get that part to us," Ms. Ball said. "They just bend over backwards to accomplish the task." Jeff Stone, vice-president of the company, said his worker's enthusiasm stems from both the desire to aid the war effort and the constant gratitude the workers receive from the program. "Our employees take a lot of pride in supporting the war effort, but our employees also like the fact that we are shown that we are appreciated. We don't get that same appreciation from other customers," Mr. Stone said. Mr. Stone said one of the biggest benefits of the Breakout program is one-on-one communication. "The face-to-face communication compared to a telephone call with some agencies we work with makes a big difference," Mr. Stone said. The face-to-face relationship developed between the Breakout program manager and the individual businesses helps Mr. Stone feel more comfortable and helps communication between the business and the program flow smoothly. Another benefit of the improved communication includes the ability to quickly solve or address problems that arise during production or repair. "It's a true partnership with the Breakout program and the local company," Mr. Whiddon said. Mrs. Stone agreed the Breakout program allows the business and the program the ability to work through problems quickly and effectively as partners. "It saves a lot of time and man hours. We are talking months versus a day or two," Mrs. Stone said. The program also offers the flexibility to readdress priorities on certain items even after the contract is awarded based on the present needs of the warfighter, Mr. Whiddon said.