JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is leading the effort to keep installations mission ready as the Air Force and Space Force continue operations while contending with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have 77 installations, eight major commands, two direct reporting units, headquarters of the Air Force and Space Force, including personnel in the Pacific, Europe and Middle East conducting missions who rely on us every day,” said AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox. “We have to keep the mission going.”
Wilcox said AFIMSC’s response to COVID-19 was swift and necessary to keep the Air Force and Space Force lethal and ready. The center continues to provide all infrastructure and base support, such as security forces, resourcing, child care and MWR programs, oversight of facility, sustainment and modernization, military construction projects, and contracting tools.
“We're still performing our mission 100 percent,” he said. “Our mission hasn't stopped or been reduced at all. I would say, in fact, the mission has increased. We’ve had to respond to this in a different way, and our Airmen have to come up with innovative and creative ways to ensure the mission goes on.”
As the Department of Defense rolled out its response to COVID-19, AFIMSC energized its primary subordinate units and detachments to support commanders and installations with guidance, funding solutions and expertise to resolve issues.
For example, the AFIMSC budgeting team that manages the $7 billion installation and mission support portfolio worked a nearly $2 billion funding request for COVID-19-related costs and potential infrastructure stimulus support, said Lt. Col. Laurie Lanpher of the Resources Directorate.
“The first part of the request covered costs associated with installations’ COVID-19 response and the other part asked for a list of unfunded requirements, that if funded, could help stimulate the economy,” she said. “The infrastructure of our installations is important to maintain readiness no matter what challenges we face. That infrastructure is also a good investment for the American taxpayer.”
The day-to-day mission in AFIMSC’s Financial Operations Division remains largely unchanged; however, the volume and scope has increased tremendously, according to Kurt Schmidbauer, financial operations supervisor. The division coordinates, interprets and distributes travel, military and civilian pay, and banking and disbursing guidance on behalf of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.
“Our team is working nearly 24 hours a day to ensure guidance is validated and released to the field as quickly as possible,” Schmidbauer said.
The civilian pay team also provides support to civilian pay operations for installations that have closed or reduce operations. Team members coordinated with the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office on a policy to open current plus two future weeks of time periods in the Automated Time Attendance and Production System, or ATAAPS. The modified policy gives commanders and civilian employees flexibility to ensure payments without delay.
The Air Force Installation Contracting Center, one of AFIMSC’s primary subordinate units, immediately engaged all commands to ensure they had the latest operational acquisition and contracting guidance.
“We made it possible for contracting officers to have emergency acquisition authorities at their disposal to meet mission needs, while also taking measures to protect our workforce,” said AFICC Commander Brig. Gen. Alice Trevino. “These special authorities include, but are not limited to, increases in the micro-purchase and simplified acquisition thresholds, exceptions to full and open competition due to unusual and compelling urgency, and exceptions to administrative requirements.”
Trevino added that contracting officers now have the authority to maximize telework and adjust payments for contractors. For example, the AFIMSC Installation Support Directorate responded by providing commanders the flexibility to modify custodial contracts to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“It was apparent that the current frequency of cleaning in a portion of facilities may not be sufficient to effectively minimize the possibility of transmitting the virus,” said Lt. Col. Jon Jones, facility operations deputy branch chief. “The majority of installation facilities on Air Force bases are cleaned at a frequency of two or three times a week. We addressed this gap by offering leadership, on a temporary basis, the latitude to decide if increased custodial cleaning frequencies are needed in their facilities.”
Installation Support Directorate leadership also began using the Defense Collaboration Services platform to conduct COVID-19 teleconferences with mission support group leaders across the force. The four sessions to date provided current installation and mission support portfolio information with experts on hand to answer questions, discuss solutions and offer AFIMSC support.
“AFIMSC is standing by to answer questions, and we’re ready to provide assistance to installations," said Col. Seth Frank, deputy director of the Installation Support Directorate. "We recommend bases work through their respective AFIMSC detachments with any requests or questions. That will ensure AFIMSC leadership is aware of the challenges facing bases and can provide the right amount of resources and tools to best support and resolve issues.”
Across the AFIMSC enterprise, the team is modifying, adapting and ensuring installations have everything they need to keep the Air and Space Force mission ready.
“We are figuring out how to do this,” Wilcox said. “AFIMSC Airmen are staying ahead of installation needs and successfully navigating around the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”