NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Constricted budgets and high operational requirements for aircraft and components has kept Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) working hard to keep up with demand. With the increased fiscal year 2018 defense budget, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) ensuring the FRCs are postured to capitalize to improve aviation readiness.
COMFRC leadership held a three-day quarterly FRC commander’s conference March 27-29 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River to discuss new opportunities to meet the growing readiness demand, to include upgrades in products and processes. The conference brought together senior leaders from the eight FRCs as well as senior COMFRC staff.
Garry Newton, Naval Air Systems Command deputy commander, opened the conference and emphasized to the commanders the importance of the Navy mission as written into the National Defense Strategy.
“If you get a chance, read it. It outlines what are some of the key things we need to do from a National Defense standpoint,” Newton said. “Previously, we haven’t had the budget to execute some of these things, but that’s going to change.
“The challenge now is that we’re going to have to execute it swiftly,” he said. “It’s important to not only spend the money but to spend it wisely.”
Newton’s comments were foot-stomped by COMFRC commander, Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski.
“The absolute worst thing we can do is not execute our budgets and not increase readiness,” he said. “We gain a lot of credibility when we deliver products to the fleet.”
Newton also addressed the need to recruit and hire more younger people who can bring new ideas and innovation into the workforce to build a strong logistics and engineering talent pool, and build a young, vibrant talent pool.
“Some of the people coming out of college today have state-of-the-art tools and skills and we need our experienced artisans to show them how to apply and leverage those skills,” he said.
Other initiatives discussed during the conference include improving and standardizing training, providing career development opportunities, increasing managerial mentoring, partnering with academia and industry, exacting aggressive hiring initiatives and improving capabilities and infrastructure.
“We want to take our challenges to industry and let them help us find solutions,” Zarkowski said.
In order to meet directly with potential commercial vendors, COMFRC is holding a series of Industry Days at the FRCs. The goal of the Industry Days is to solicit ideas and technology from the commercial market basket to improve readiness to the fleet. FRC Southwest in San Diego recently held a highly successful Industry Day showcase. As a result, events are scheduled in the month of April for FRC East at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and FRC Southeast at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.
FRC commanders also provided updates to their separate operations and how they were meeting production challenges to meet readiness demands.
Two FRCs, FRC West at NAS Lemoore, California, and FRC Northwest at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, were recognized for achieving COMFRC Safety Management Systems Silver Level awards on behalf of their respective commands. The award represents attaining the second of three major milestones in implementing the Secretary of the Navy’s Safety Risk Management practices with industry best practices. The award demonstrates a culture of safety excellence by mitigating hazards and taking care of COMFRC’s most import asset – its people.