Newsletters - Volume 55
Response to last issues Feature Article: A Future Concept of Employment for Air Force C & E Occupations - 2035
Written by Capt Dale Horwill, 1 Cdn, Air Div HQ, A6 RCS 3, CSN 257-6692
I enjoyed the article written by LCol Bates and while I agree that new equipment and GPS technologies will reduce some of the requirement for AF military personnel to maintain certain airfield equipment, the matter has several complex elements. LCol Bates writes that for Air Traffic Management Systems, the new equipment will render the 226 airfield technician redundant within 10 years as maintenance will be performed by contractors. With that in mind I would like to point out a few of the complexities that I see, beginning with the fact that we would need to examine the total cost of contracting out the maintenance that is performed by 226 technicians now. If the new systems begin coming online in 2015 as planned, and of course projects are never delayed, how long will the CF actually contract out all maintenance support to industry, and at what cost over the equipment's lifetime? A cost analysis would need to be completed to see which option - military versus contractor, would provide the AF with "the most bang for the buck". Additionally, it should be remembered that for the first few years the eqpt should be very reliable. This would most probably change as the equipment ages. There are many examples where existing fleets are extended well beyond their initial life expectancy. Therefore, research into maintenance costs over and above the initial life of these new systems would need to be performed or early capital replacement costs factored in.
Another issue to be considered is that personnel who are currently qualified on our MOB airfields are able to more easily adapt and function within tactical units such as 8ACCS, 12 ER and 42 Radar Squadron due to the knowledge already garnered through employment on the MOBs airfields. Another complexity, is that civilian contractors pose a risk to operations because they have the right to take strike actions or do work slow downs. This risk would necessitate having a robust mitigation strategy in place. If, in this scenario, we have no airfield trained military personnel available on the Wings, we would be severely limited in our ability to respond to unexpected manning limitations for contracted maintenance.
Another concern would be deployed operations. If there are airfield services deployed in support of operations, then yes, civilians could be contracted to support the Air Traffic Management Systems such as radars and communication platforms. However, it must be kept in mind that those civilians may have the right to walk away from a dangerous environment, leaving a support gap that could only be filled by AF military technical staff. Where would these trained personnel be found? The TCR Sqns have their own mandate, and if the deployed TCR need stretched into months, who would we utilize to backfill and maintain the follow-on rotations? Today we have a pool of experts working on our airfields from whom we can draw from when this scenario occurs.
While I agree that technology will increase reliability, we need to ensure that for contingency purposes there is always a pool of ready experts in reserve. Do we increase the size of the TCR Sqns, 8 ACCS and ATESS to ensure overall support is not in jeopardy? At what cost? In the end we need to ensure that our tactical squadrons are properly manned for both their domestic and international roles, ensuring that contingency issues, that could impact our ability to effectively man or backfill from MOBs, are fully considered. The manning and employment decisions made today will undoubtedly have major repercussions on our capabilities out to 2035. All issues must receive due consideration to ensure that the AF continues to have the ability to provide reliable and effective communications eqpt and technical staff into the future.