Mission Monday: Category management 

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  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – It’s Mission Monday. Meet Kevin Herstine, chief of the Air Force Installation Contracting Center’s Category Management Branch here. 

Herstine and his team are responsible for the Department of the Air Force’s Category Management Program Support Office which leads the implementation and execution of DAF’s $207 billion Category Management Program on behalf of the Air Force Deputy Chief Management Officer.

Category management is a structured, data-driven business practice for an organization to strategically analyze and manage common categories of spend to eliminate redundancies, increase efficiencies and enhance mission effectiveness. 

“My talented, multi-functional team and I deliver data-driven solutions through targeted market research, advanced data analytics and CM-related tools,” the acquisition program manager said.

We asked Herstine, who was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, to tell us more about himself and his work in support of the DAF.

What do you love about your job?
Being an internal DAF business consultant and solving complex mission challenges. Senior leaders and subject matter experts point us in the direction of what’s “eating their lunch” and we get to systematically dissect, analyze and present tailored strategies to fix the issues. By employing CM as a problem-solving tool, we truly embody the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s motto, “your success is our mission.” 

Our CM recommendations help close observed gaps in data, processes, performance, cost and management strategies. A huge benefit of our CM process is the identification of highly relevant industry best practices, benchmarks, emerging technology and innovation. 
To obtain those external data points, we engage regularly with Fortune 50 companies such as Amazon and UPS. It's enlightening to understand industry’s perspective and then bring it back within the fence line to help improve how the DAF does business. And of course, my team is amazing, so that doesn’t hurt!

When it comes to your job, what keeps you motivated?
A key objective of DAF CM is shifting from a budget execution mindset (i.e., spending our money on time, regardless of mission criticality) to strategic cost management (i.e., bettering overall costs to maximize investments in our most vital capabilities). Seeing the attributable mission improvements and cost savings associated with this paradigm shift is extremely rewarding. It’s that return on investment that keeps me motivated.    

Why are you and your team important to the Air Force/Space Force enterprise/your customers?
Our Air Force and Space Force missions continue to grow, but our budgets rarely keep pace. Understanding how to “keep the lights on” while looking to “turn on new lights” can be challenging without the right decision intelligence. Through CM’s robust process, we are equipping senior leaders with decision-quality data and recommendations to help optimize operations and get more mission capability for their budget. As a result of our CM initiatives, we’ve analyzed over $7.6 billion in DAF/Department of Defense requirements and identified more than $1.4 billion in cost savings and avoidances. 

Describe a project/event you and your team worked on recently that gave you a great sense of accomplishment:
The standup of the DAF Land Mobile Radio Product Management Office within AFIMSC’s Installation Directorate has been a personal CM career highlight. The genesis for that new team was a Category Intelligence Report I authored for LMR. That data-driven decision was ultimately approved by the Under Secretary of the Air Force. 
In addition to standing up the LMR PMO, the LMR CIR recommended new inventory policies and enterprise acquisitions to help normalize costs, influence demand, standardize requirements and address interoperability and cybersecurity risks. One of those acquisition recommendations, Enterprise Land Mobile Radio, was just awarded by the 771st Enterprise Sourcing Squadron to address LMR infrastructure sustainment. The collective LMR CIR recommendations are slated to save the DAF over $300 million. 

How does what you do support AFIMSC’s strategic priorities?
Category management is now a core competency of the Air Force Installation Contracting Center which should help integrate this business practice into the operational acquisition community. Specifically, CM is supporting increasing lethality and readiness and pursuing organizational excellence. Our CM projects focused on IT, facilities and base operations help improve performance and optimize costs to enable more resilient, mission-capable installations. Additionally, at its core, CM is about innovation and data-driven decision making, which drive many of goals within organizational excellence. There are certainly synergies between the DAF CM Program and AFIMSC’s Strategic Plan.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add which might help people understand the importance of what you do for the Department of the Air Force?
CM is a federally mandated initiative focused on delivering value through improved requirements and enterprise strategies. The DAF is considered the CM thought leader within the federal government and is routinely sought after for our business intelligence and CM best practices. Given the substantial mission return on investment opportunity, our long-term vision for CM is to fully integrate it into the DAF’s everyday business operations. To learn more about DAF CM, visit the CM PSO SharePoint.