D.C. trip breeds optimism for Robins

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 11, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Last year was a tough one for Robins Air Force Base, but business and community leaders were told Tuesday there are good reasons for optimism this year.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, president of the 21st Century Partnership, spoke at the partnership’s first community summit, which will be held annually. The event at the Museum of Aviation drew about 175 people.

McMahon said budget cuts and furloughs made 2013 difficult, but recent meetings with top Air Force brass in Washington brought positive news on several fronts.

Perhaps the biggest is the reaffirmation that the Air Force wants to keep all three maintenance depots, which includes Robins.

He said he heard that from the service’s top military leader, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, as well as the Pentagon’s top officials over maintenance.

“The message was that if we have too much industrial capacity in the Air Force, the three diamonds in the conversation are the air logistics complexes,” McMahon said.

He also said there appeared to be no enthusiasm for a special commission’s recommendation to eliminate the Air Force Reserve Command and have reservists serve under the regular Air Force. The command is headquartered at Robins and employs about 1,000 people there.

McMahon also said there were no indications that any thought is being given to moving the J-STARS program to another base once the Air Force replaces its aging fleet.

“If you didn’t come back from that feeling a little giddy about Warner Robins and Middle Georgia, you probably weren’t alive,” McMahon said.

The audience included many elected officials, top leaders at the base and leaders of the base union.

Brad Fink, chairman of the 21st Century Partnership board, urged attendees to do more than support the partnership financially.

“Take the Robins message deeper into your circle,” he said. “We need more people in Middle Georgia to understand the value of Robins Air Force Base and the mission of the 21st Century Partnership.”

McMahon made two specific predictions. One was that the Reserve Command recommendation will not be approved. He also predicts that within nine months the base will turn around its lagging on-time delivery rate.

For the first three months of the current fiscal year, the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex completed only 48 percent on time.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker has a 100 percent on-time delivery rate for the same period, while the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah had a 91 percent rate.

Also Tuesday, McMahon announced the partnership recently got the news from the IRS that it had been approved as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The partnership has sought the designation for more than a year to open the door for the kind of fundraising it wants to do to build up a war chest for the next Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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