Air Force ‘Base in a Box’ Plan Delayed Because of Poor Management, IG Says

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A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules of 317th Airlift Group taxis on the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s (JMRC) Short Takeoff and Landing Strip while conducting an AirLand operations to establish lodgement during Swift Response 16 training exercise at the Hohenfels Training Area, a part of the JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, Jun. 16, 2016. (U.S. Army photo/Lloyd Villanueva)

STUTTGART, Germany — Poor program management has delayed the development of mobile air base kits in Europe, which means fewer airlift options for U.S. European Command during a crisis, according to a Defense Department Inspector General’s report.

The Air Force has a plan to stand up 24 “Deployable Air Base Kits” as part of a $797 million program to bolster American air power in Europe. However, EUCOM and U.S. Air Forces Europe efforts have been hampered by vague deadlines and insufficient oversight, the IG reported in late December.

“As a result, USEUCOM and USAFE will have fewer options for airlift capabilities when rapidly responding to a contingency within the USEUCOM area of responsibility,” the IG said in its Dec. 27 report.

In 2016, EUCOM directed USAFE to develop the requirements for deployable air bases, which include tents, vehicles, medical supplies and airfield repair equipment that enable the Air Force to quickly set up a base.

The idea of a “base in a box,” which came about in response to concerns about a more aggressive Russia, is that the deployable kits would reduce the time and cost of transporting equipment from either the U.S. or other bases in Europe.

The plan called for enough gear for the first five full kits to be procured in 2018, but USAFE officials told the IG in July that they did not expect to have the equipment procured for the first complete kit until 2020 or 2021.

The lack of a single manager designated by the Air Force to handle oversight and coordination between the various agencies has hindered the effort, the IG said.

EUCOM also did not establish “an end date to have all 24 kits pre-positioned in USEUCOM’s area of responsibility,” the report said. “An end date is critical for USAFE to use to plan the coordination of the construction of storage facilities and procurement of equipment categories.”

EUCOM agreed with the IG’s findings and has provided the IG with a “classified implementation plan” with an end date to pre-position the 24 kits.

USAFE officials also said they now have a goal to have 10 kits ready by 2021.

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