McMahon: ‘We still have work to do’

Productivity, labor relations, education and crime should be priorities, retired general says

wcrenshaw@macon.comApril 25, 2014 

Robert McMahon

WARNER ROBINS -- Robins Air Force Base and Middle Georgia are on the right track but have some issues to address before the next Base Realignment and Closure Commission, said retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon.

That was among the final thoughts he shared Friday, days before he leaves his job as leader of the 21st Century Partnership.

“I think Middle Georgia should be optimistic about its future, as long as we recognize that we still have work to do,” said McMahon, who is stepping down May 4 to take a job with Boeing on base.

He cited four issues that should be priorities. Two are on base, and two are off.

The two on base are productivity and union/management relations. Both of those, he said, are headed in the right direction.

The highest levels of the Air Force and Georgia’s congressional delegation, he said, recognize what McMahon called “dramatically better” labor relations since a new slate of union leaders took office in October.

“It’s the best it’s been in 10 years,” he said.

He also believes new processes in place will improve the on-time delivery rate of aircraft, but it may take some time before that is seen due to the fact that it takes months to overhaul a single aircraft.

“It’s a key indicator, but it’s also a lagging indicator,” he said. “Things will be flowing much better before you see it in the on-time delivery rate.”

The two community issues are crime and education.

“We have to find a resolution to the growing crime issue in Middle Georgia,” he said. “That’s an issue that impacts not only the military’s perception but industry’s perception of our region, and I think we have to work that aggressively.”

In a series of studies the partnership commissioned that compared Robins to other communities with industrial military bases, crime is an area where the region fared the poorest.

Education was something of a mixed bag, with Houston County ranking well but the region as a whole not so much. The majority of children of military members at Robins attend Houston schools.

“I think Houston County has to be more aggressive in communicating the good things that are happening in our education system,” he said, “and I think some of the other communities need to continue to emphasize improving education.”

Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, which oversees the Air Force’s three maintenance depots, raised an intriguing possibility while speaking in Macon on Thursday. He said it’s possible Robins and the other two depots could grow by working on planes from other branches of the military.

McMahon said he believes that’s a real possibility and added another that Litchfield didn’t mention. Many foreign militaries own aircraft of the type that are maintained at Robins, and McMahon doesn’t see why those couldn’t come here as well.

The key, he said, is Litchfield’s comment that the work will likely only come if efficiency is improved. The Air Force isn’t going to have funding for much construction, so by moving aircraft through more efficiently, that would free up existing space for additional work.

“There’s opportunities today to create that additional capacity,” he said.

McMahon is stepping out of the spotlight three and half years after he came to Middle Georgia to lead the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. He became president of the 21st Century Partnership after his retirement in 2012.

With Boeing being an international organization, it would figure his new job could open opportunities to go elsewhere. But McMahon said he plans to stay in Middle Georgia.

“What made this a unique opportunity was both the makeup of the job and the location from which I would work,” he said. “Had either of those elements not been there, I’m certain I wouldn’t have taken the job.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, 256-9725.

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