TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. —
Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II took command of the Air Force Sustainment Center on June 5, 2015.
On Aug. 7, he relinquished command and retired from the Air Force. Levy said the center has evolved significantly over the last three years and that is a reflection of the 43,000 Airmen who comprise AFSC.
“What they have been able to do during the time I have been lucky enough to be their commander is take an organization that was a series of organizations stuck under one banner, and turn it into an integrated, enterprise-wide capability to deliver logistics and sustainment effects for our warfighter, for our combatant commanders and for our other government agencies, as well our foreign military sales partners,” he said. “It has been a transformational three years — probably not so much a function of my doing, but more a function of the men and women who come to work in the sustainment center every single day.”
This is Levy’s fourth assignment in Air Force Materiel Command. His headquarters and two field assignments prepared him for his role as AFSC commander. He said extensive interaction with the civilian workforce is something many who wear the uniform don’t typically have the opportunity to experience. His four joint assignments also prepared him for the challenges and opportunities across the large unit.
“I continually think from a joint perspective,” he said. “Is this good for the Air Force, for my coalition teammates, for the nation and for our allies? That perspective has been very helpful here.”
Levy also spoke on the vast workload accomplished at AFSC, stating 70 percent of what the AFSC does is for the Air Force, with the remaining 30 percent supporting other services and various areas within the United States government.
“I just had a discussion with the director of NASA about the support we provide his team, as well as to our coalition and allies,” Levy said. “In fact, we are so tightly integrated that we have coalition members on staff at the AFSC. My broad background with multiple deployments has given me a deep appreciation for those partnerships as well as the skill set to make them successful across the Center.”
Levy also emphasized the importance of his formal education, noting the value of the business degree he earned at Louisiana State University.
“I did not recognize how much I would fall back on my LSU education once I got into the Air Force, but I will tell you sustainment is big business,” he said. “It is risky because the nation’s readiness suffers if we get it wrong. Having a business degree as we operate this $16 billion a year [profit and loss] enterprise has been incredibly helpful.”
The AFSC is the only profit and loss organization in the Air Force. Levy said he has been pleased with the cost consciousness of the men and women of the sustainment center.
“Our team has been relentless in improving their performance while being incredibly conscious about what it costs to do this work on behalf of their nation,” Levy said. “Their ability to drive down cost, look for innovative ways to partner within Air Force and industry is quite remarkable and unprecedented across the Department of Defense.”
Art of the Possible is a way of life in the AFSC and that plays a huge part in improving performance and finding efficiencies. The center started using AoP under the leadership of former AFSC Commander Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield. When Levy took command, he embraced the process and philosophies, and continued to instill AoP into Center activities.
“When you look at cultural change in terms of how organizations evolve and grow, it doesn’t just happen over one or two commander cycles,” Levy said. “It’s a journey, not a destination. We’ve continued to improve and mature. We’ve put the requirement to do Art of the Possible in the senior leader performance plans, we put it in their appraisals and in their OPRs. I tell people it is not optional. This is how we do business. It is just not what we do, Art of the Possible is how you do it.”
Levy said every ounce of performance improvement the AFSC workforce can pursue through AoP and managing constraints results in “readiness goodness for the Air Force.” For example, the team at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Georgia, has been performing large aircraft infrared countermeasures modifications on C-130 aircraft. Funds were not available for the entire fleet, so the Air Force asked for the modifications to be accomplished on only a certain subset of the fleet.
The team at Robins applied Art of the Possible; identifying the constraints, improving the performance and driving increased throughput while decreasing cost which generated the resources and resulted in savings returned to the Air Force. The Air Force reverted those savings back to the C-130 Program Office, which reallocated more resources to Robins to put the infrared countermeasures system on additional airplanes.
“That’s readiness, that’s survivability,” Levy said. “That’s combat capability because now we have airplanes that otherwise would not have had some protection measures against infrared types of weapons systems. That’s readiness goodness. That’s Art of the Possible operationalized, missionized and weaponized to deliver combat power for our nation.”
As he prepares to hang up the uniform he has worn for the last 33 years, Levy said he wants to thank the men and women in the AFSC for all they do, day in and day out.
As far as being remembered after his retirement, he said he is not concerned
“My focus is not really to be remembered, but to make sure I have put the right pieces in place for AFSC to continue delivering the kind of combat effect the nation needs so those men and women in the fight never have to think about ‘Will I have everything I need? Will there be an airplane to take me home? Will there be an airplane to put bombs on targets?’ That is what is truly important,” he said.