A former top military commander at Robins Air Force Base will become one of the top civilians in the Department of Defense on Tuesday.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon is set to be sworn in as the assistant secretary of defense over logistics and materiel readiness.
McMahon served as the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander from 2010 to 2012, when he retired and became director of the 21st Century Partnership, an organization that advocates for the base. He later went to work for Fickling & Co. in Macon, but he continued to stay active with efforts to support Robins.
In September, President Donald Trump nominated McMahon to the Department of Defense post, and on Nov. 16, McMahon was confirmed by the full U.S. Senate. A voice vote confirmed McMahon and seven other nominees.
Robins advocates are glad to have someone high in the Department of Defense with expert knowledge of the base and what it does, but the area is also losing one of its most respected voices on defense issues. McMahon and his wife, Hope, have sold their home in Houston County and are moving to Washington.
“He and Hope are a huge loss for Middle Georgia, but at the same time he has acquired a very well-deserved appointment, and he will be good for the country and good for national defense,” said Rob Brooks, chairman of the 21st Century Partnership board. “I think it is good to have someone with his knowledge and experience helping make decisions that impact all of the Air Force bases and all of the military installations.
“I think it’s good that we’ve got someone who understands the depot world inside and out.”
In a telephone interview, McMahon said he plans to visit Robins Air Force Base during his tenure at the Pentagon, as well as other maintenance depots.
“For Hope and I it has been a delight to be part of the Middle Georgia community, and we will miss it tremendously,” he said.
McMahon said he has three priorities in his new job: to improve “readiness and lethality,” working to make logistics more effective, and making logistics more efficient.
He said his experiences at Robins showed him that can be done. When he arrived at the base in 2010, only 47 percent of planes being overhauled at the base were completed on time. When he left, that had improved to 98 percent on-time delivery.
“Having witnessed it firsthand, it gives me confidence in their ability and our ability to achieve our goal,” he said.
McMahon said he has not spoken with Trump but has talked with his White House representatives. He expects to meet with Secretary of Defense James Mattis soon after he is sworn in.
In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, McMahon told lawmakers that “ever-present threats require an ever-ready force.”
He added, “Gone are the days that our nation has the luxury to take months or even years to rearm and prepare for war. What worked in World War II or even Desert Storm will not work today. ... It is paramount that we properly invest not only in the future, but in the readiness and sustainment of our current fleet of systems as well. ...
“Unfortunately, 16 years of continuous combat operations has taken a toll on our equipment. This, combined with an aging fleet of systems due to limited modernization and recapitalization over the past two decades, requires us to be more aggressive and innovative in our effort to reset the force.”
One of McMahon’s leading proponents in the confirmation process was U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., a member of that committee.
“I have known Bob for a number of years, and he has distinguished himself as a servant leader and pillar of support for the local base and community,” Perdue said in a statement before McMahon’s confirmation hearing. “General McMahon brings to the table 39 years of proven leadership while in uniform, in business and in nonprofit service to his community, which happens to be my hometown of Warner Robins.”