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The evolution of the AEF: what's next for the combat comptroller?

At the risk of sounding ancient, I'll say, "I remember when ..." I remember life before cell phones, the Internet, and remote controlled TVs. And I remember the birth of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force, commonly known as the AEF. However, just as electronics evolved over the years, so has the AEF. Thank goodness. So what's next for the AEF? Does it need to continue to evolve? And what's in store for us combat comptrollers?

The AEF is how the Air Force (AF) organizes, train and equips itself to meet national security objective. It is how we generate our forces, as well as how we present them to the combatant commanders, enabling home station units to reconstitute so the capability can be provided on a sustained basis. The AEF gives our Airmen predictability, to know when they can expect to deploy and for how long. For a very short time, the AEF was designed to support three-month deployments, and was quickly update to four months. At the time, this caused quite a stir as this generation had never been expected to deploy for that length of time. The AF typically is called upon to get in, do the job, and return home. Fortunately, the limited war contingence operations required of the AF for so long afforded us this mentality. That is, until September 11, 2001 changed all of our worlds.

This long war against terrorism drove the change to six-month deployments, and demanded numerous tours for 12 months. Our robust presence in Iraq and Afghanistan drove us to staff forward, joint headquarters, requiring FM to learn other services' financial processes and systems. Congress authorized new and unique funding authorities to build other nations' military capabilities, further increasing the demand for financial managers in the area of responsibility (AOR).

The AF ended up bearing the brunt of many joint, financial management taskings in large part because we own the competitive advantage. We develop and train Airmen in their specialty immediately. The Army typically gets into a specialty after years of training to become a soldier first. The Navy is split between shore and sea duties. Financial management (FM) on shore is largely accomplished by civilians. FM at sea is performed by military, but the duties are combined with other logistics and supply duties. To top it off, we're dang good at what we do. We've proven our capability and worth in a deployed, joint environment for the past decade. AF financial managers are in high demand.

The challenge of meeting the numerous demands for AF capabilities drove the need for the next generation of the AEF--AEF Next. If there is one thing the AF learned from this war, it's the need to speak "joint"--to translate our AF lingo into terms our sister services and the Joint Staff can understand. AF leadership recognized our need to improve the translation and presentation of our AF capabilities to the combatant commanders. Since we have unique capabilities, this is no easy task. No other service launches combat operations from home station. We support global operations for the combatant commands daily, but these personnel and assets are not captured as "deployed" in a traditional sense. We deploy unit type codes (UTCs) versus units. The former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Norton Schwarz, directed a new AEF model to better represent the full capabilities the AF provides to the combatant commanders on a daily basis--to capture and represent what the AF has available, committed, and in reconstitution in a definable and quantifiable unit of measurement. He recognized that it must be easily understood by the public, Congress, Joint/ Interagency communities, AF senior leaders, and Airmen. The original AEF Next model presented our AF capabilities in six types of Airpower Teams (APTs), which align to AF core functions and doctrine--Strike, Mobility, Space & Cyberspace, C2ISR, Special Operations, and Agile Combat Support. The intent is not to change the wing structure, but to capture them within teams using a team approach. While the AEF Next concept is approved and on target for FY15 full operational capability (FOC), the unit of measurement and force presentation model is still under development.

What does this mean for FM?

As part of Agile Combat Support, in AEF Next, FM will be postured at 1:2 deploy-to-dwell (DTD). Current FM officers' deploy-to-dwell is 1:2 (tempo band D) and enlisted is 1:4 (tempo band B) with the vulnerability windows remaining at six months. The key difference between the AEF Next execution model and current AEF tempo bands is that the supply (personnel) and demand (deployment taskings) will not drive the posture. Instead, it represents our maximum capacity. Tempo bands will be a thing of the past, but 1:2 DTD will be the norm. Being ready and available to deploy every 12 months (1:2 DTD), in your vulnerability window, does not necessarily equate to everyone being tasked to deploy. The contingency operation will continue to define the need.

While much remains the same, AEF Next will account for all forces committed to the combatant commanders. The AF will deploy as teams of some sort, something more similar to the units of our sister services than individual UTCs spread across the total force. This will help synchronize deployments and assignments for each wing and unit. This might lead to an adjustment of our FM UTCs back to teams versus individual UTCs. With the teaming concept, commanders will be more involved at home and deployed as they will have stakeholder interest in the team's success. The idea is simple, "Train like we fight, fight like we train."

Taken from lessons learned from OEF/OIF/OND, AEF Next is the next evolution of the AEF, designed to fully represent the AF's capabilities provided to the combatant commanders. Though there is still much to be determined and refined, we can press ahead knowing our combat comptrollers are well tested and ready to adjust to this new construct. Stay tuned for more information via AEF Online at https://aef.afpc.randolph.af.mil/education.aspx or the Combat Comptroller Community of Practice at http://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/combatcomptroller.asp.

What's the Same?

--Squad / Group / Wing Architecture 6-month Deployed Tour Lengths

--Fulfilling CCDR Requirements

--JET/IA Taskings

--Institutional Force (1:4 D2D)

--RC 1:5 M2D and Max Volunteerism

--Unit Type Codes (UTCs)

--Tailorable and Flexible

What's New?

--Accounts for ALL Air Forces

--Leadership Continuity--Home/Deployed

--Increased Commander Involvement

--Enhanced Teaming (Habitual Relationship) Home/Deployed Vice Single Wing Entity

--Capabilities Supplied thru APTs

--Capabilities Tied to Core Functions and Doctrine

by Lt Col Wendy Miller, SAF/FMEX

About the

Author Lt Col Wendy Miller is the Chief of FM War Plans, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. She previously served as Commander, 36th Comptroller Squadron, at Andersen AFB, Guam.
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Title Annotation:ARTICLES
Author:Miller, Wendy
Publication:Air Force Comptroller
Date:Mar 22, 2013
Words:1144
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