Highway Technical Corrections Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: April 16, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


HIGHWAY TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - April 16, 2008)

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Mr. BIDEN. Madam President, yesterday, the Secretary of Defense announced the 2008 Commander in Chief's Awards for Installation Excellence. These awards honor the best installation for each service. For the first time in the 23-year history of the award, the Air Force winner is a mobility base, Dover Air Force Base. Out of 117 Air Force installations, Dover AFB was chosen as the absolute best.

I cannot say that I was surprised. I believe they won because of the tradition of excellence imbued in each man and woman working at Dover.

It started in 1941, when the 112th Observation Squadron of the Ohio National Guard arrived to set up antisubmarine operations at the new Dover airfield. That mission and the others that helped America and her allies win World War II began an enduring tradition of excellence. In 1948, the airfield was officially named Dover Air Force Base and the Nation moved into its Cold War posture. Some may not know this, but for 7 years, 1951-1958, Dover was home to fighter squadrons defending American airspace.

In 1955, one of Dover's best known missions came to the base, the Aerial Port Mortuary. For over 70 years, the Dover team has given fallen Americans an honorable and compassionate homecoming. While it is only one mission on the base, every generation of air men and women stationed at Dover has taken pride in honoring America's heroes and ensuring the grace and dignity of their return to our Nation and their families.

By the late 1950s, Dover was transformed into a mobility base, under the Military Air Transport Service, which became Military Airlift Command, and eventually became Air Mobility Command. Since 1973, Dover has been home to America's largest military transport aircraft, the C-5. Just last year, the Nation's second largest military transport aircraft, the C-17, was added to the base. As home to the Nation's great airlifters, Dover has always been busy--supporting American forces in every military engagement from Vietnam to Grenada to Panama to the first gulf war to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Iraq; supporting our Israeli allies with critical supplies during the Yom Kippur War; evacuating Americans from Iran in 1978; assisting with clean-up from the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill; assisting Central American nations, Turkey, and Taiwan that have experienced devastating earthquakes; providing humanitarian aid around the globe after major natural disasters; and supporting Presidential travel around the world. This dual mission, to provide lethal force and vital humanitarian aid, makes Dover critical to America's use of both hard and soft power and has made it all the more important that every generation serving at Dover carry on the tradition of excellence.

This year, Dover's tradition of excellence and the entire Dover team have been recognized with the Commander in Chief's Award. What does it mean to be the best base in the Air Force? It means that the entire Dover team has found innovative ways to make the absolute most of the resources they have. They have not only saved the taxpayers money, they have also given the warfighter more capability.

They have also been unstinting in giving back to the local community and the larger Delaware community. The Dover team is not just the air men and women serving on the base. It is also their families, civilians working on base, the businesses that support base operations and life, the State and local government that support base needs, and the entire Delaware military community working together to give the State and the Nation the very best.

Let me give you some examples from the seven categories that were considered in the competition. Keep in mind that all of these accomplishments occurred in 1 year. They were only possible because the people at Dover, despite full-time, 365/24/7 operations in support of Iraq and Afghanistan, constantly challenged themselves to do more and to do it better.

First, improvements to the infrastructure of the base and the working environment were considered.

Dover opened a state-of-the-art, $77.5 million Air Freight Terminal that increased cargo capacity and efficiency through Dover by 50 percent. The base also invested $53 million in a major runway improvement project and another $3.5 million to repair 183,000 square feet of taxiway, improving both the efficiency and safety of airfield operations. After a close analysis of their budget, the Dover team found $32 million to use for base improvements, including a $5 million renovation of a squadron operations building, C-5 recapitalization, and projects needed for the C-17 squadron setup. Thoughtful planning allowed Dover to keep the bed down of a new C-17 squadron on schedule because base personnel proactively made $780,000 necessary basic infrastructure improvements. In addition, they installed solar lights on the runways and reinforced the taxiway so that C-17 aircrews could do navigation training and combat off-load training.

Dover also improved security operations by installing over 450 removable bollards on the base, including some at the gate in a ``Lazy S'' curve to prevent reverse entry threats. The bollard installation reduced the force protection squadron's time spent on contracting by 50 percent, freeing them for security missions. Security was further enhanced by the installation of a $450,000 crash-rated airfield gate, U.S. Transportation Command's No. 1 priority for force protection, and by the use of radiological detection equipment to screen over 91,000 trucks in 1 year alone. This valuable equipment, valued at $150,000, was obtained by base personnel at no cost. In addition, by renovating the Security Forces firing range at a cost of $4.8 million, the base was able to increase the range's capacity by 15 percent and save 1,000 manhours per year.

Second, improvements to the quality of life on the base were considered.

Dover has pioneered Air Mobility Command's privatization effort for base housing. Dover built 240 homes in 2007 and was named the 2007 Outstanding Housing Installation Team-Privatized Location for the Air Force. The $250 million housing project is the benchmark for the command and will ultimately increase the housing standards for 980 families when complete in 2009. Dover's Services Squadron was recognized as Air Mobility Command's 2007 Youth Program of the Year and the Outdoor Recreation Program earned the Air Force's 5-Star Program Award. Quality of life for airmen was further enhanced by finalizing the design of a $13 million, 144-room dormitory that exceeds command standards and will be a model for other bases.

Keeping the Dover team, including families, healthy is critical to a high quality of life. Dover is the only base in the command with 100 percent of its pharmacy technicians nationally certified. In addition, the base was first in the command and third in the Air Force for flu immunization rates, at over 99 percent.

Third, efforts to enhance the productivity of the workforce were considered.

Dover has taken the lead role in reducing the time needed for Isochronal, ISO, inspections and, as a result, was made the regional center for all east coast C-5 Isochronal inspections in July of 2007. This is the first such regional facility in the Air Force. Historically, an ISO inspection took up to 38 days to complete. The 436th Maintenance Team reviewed the entire process to increase velocity while maintaining quality. This led the team to one record-breaking effort in which an ISO inspection was completed in only 13.2 days. These initiatives were also a key reason the 436th Maintenance Squadron won the 2006 Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award.

In order to reduce the time planes are on the ground, the 436th Maintenance Squadron did a complete review of how they maintained ground equipment. As a result, they were able to reduce the steps each mechanic takes from 763 to 73, saving 29.7 minutes per inspection, while reducing wait time by 34 minutes. They also saved 63.7 minutes per inspection or 26.54 manhours per year and vacated 17,660 square feet of floor space to be designated for other use. The cellular work design they came up with is considered the benchmark for such designs in the command and is a model of how the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century initiative and use of Lean Six Sigma, a process improvement approach first used in the private sector, can make better use of existing resources.

The Dover Operations Group improved throughput for aircraft by creating the only C-5 one-stop/jet-side service system in the Air Force. The Required Flight Manual, Flight Information Publications, weapons and tools needed by an aircrew for a mission are delivered directly to the aircraft. This reduces travel time by 20 minutes, allowing a 12-percent reduction in the C-5 launch sequence and providing more duty days for the crews to complete their missions.

Dover was able to reduce the amount of time needed to overhaul and rebuild C-5 jet engines, TF39, by 12 days, going from 75 to 63 days. The process improvement also allowed two production crews to be reassigned to other sections, regained five critical manning positions, and saved 36 manpower positions and $3.8 million in operating costs. On the whole, by reducing wasted motion for support equipment and tools, the 436th Maintenance Group has saved 73.3 annual man-days and expedited engine repairs so that they are done 5 days faster than the original standard and freeing 1,944 square feet of floor space for other work.

Another key initiative was the effort to ensure that Basic Post Flight inspections be done within 10 hours of mission completion. This initiative was begun in 2005 by the Dover Maintenance Group Commander and brought completion time down to 6 hours, a 40-percent improvement. The complete process review improved Home Station Logistics Reliability rate by 40 percent and overtime man hours were reduced by 75 percent. Overall, this means the team saved 23,000 labor-hours and $1.168 million. The mission benefits included the following: a reduced number of tail swaps, increased number of aircraft ready for flight, reduced number of late take-offs, and dramatically improved efficiency in the launch sequence of events.

The Dover team also ensured a seamless transition for the new C-17 squadron, ensuring that Dover's first C-17 was able to fly its first combat mission within 36 days of arrival. In the squadron's first month, they had a 100-percent on-time departure rate and a 99-percent mission capable rate.

In addition, once investigators were done with the 2007 C-5 crash scene, Dover personnel took the initiative to save and recover parts. Their efforts ensured that 127 parts were recovered, inspected, and restocked into the Air Force supply system, saving $7 million.

Fourth, increases in customer satisfaction or improvements in customer service were considered.

Today, Dover's key mission, or customer service, is to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-seven percent of the entire Department of Defense airlift requirement last year went from Dover. The 3rd and 9th Airlift Squadrons flew more than 8,000 hours, with more than 2,000 combat hours and 460 combat missions. The two squadrons combined airlifted 59.4 million pounds of cargo and more than 12,000 passengers.

Dover is the second busiest en route airfield in the Department of Defense. It supported 3,000 en route missions in 2007 with a 95-percent departure reliability rate.

In addition, Dover assisted America's diplomatic efforts and the State Department by supporting foreign military sales to 32 countries, handling 85 missions and 950 tons of cargo.

The Dover team also made sure that it provided the best possible services to military personnel and their families on base. Access to mental health care was increased by 35 percent, despite a 40-percent decrease in manning. This exceeded the command's goal for access by 20 percent. In order to keep basic operations functioning, the Communications Squadron answered 99 percent of their 2,700 assistance requests within 2 days. That is 4 percent better than the Air Force standard.

In an effort to improve safety and provide instantaneous responses to emergencies with existing resources, the Civil Engineer Fire Department teamed with the Medical Group to provide 24/7 ambulance service. The Medical Group Airmen who provide ambulance response are now co-located at the emergency call center at the base Fire Department.

Fifth, efforts to encourage bottom-to-top communication and team problem solving were considered.

Dover has been a true leader in implementing Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century. The key to the success of this initiative to make operations more streamlined and ``lean'' has been clear communication and a team approach. In recognition of this excellence, Dover has hosted numerous training sessions for units from five major commands, Air Force senior leaders, and for the Royal Air Force. Dover instructors have trained 4,200 students in Basic Lean Awareness including a program at the First Term Airmen Center.

Dover is the first base in the command to have two fully qualified level-2 facilitators. These facilitators certified seven level-1 facilitators and trained another 20 level-1 students. They have successfully made operations more efficient in over 50 areas in just 1 year. In addition, Dover's trainers ensured that 210 future Ramstein Air Force Base and Charleston Air Force Base facilitators understood the basics of lean initiatives. These efforts won the Dover team praise from the Logistics Director at Air Mobility Command Headquarters.

Sixth, the promotion of unit cohesiveness and the recognition of outstanding individual effort was considered.

The Dover team won two Department of Defense, one Secretary of the Air Force, 12 Air Force, and 93 Air Mobility Command Awards in 2006. In addition, they won the 2007 U.S. Small Business Administration Award for the State of Delaware. One critical example of why these awards were won is in antoterrorism, where they won command honors for the ninth consecutive year for best antiterrorism and force protection programs. Dover was able to obtain $1.2 million in Combating Terrorism Readiness Initiative Funds that it used to resolve installation vulnerabilities, resulting in winning the Department of Defense's Best Antiterrorism Operational Unit in 2006 and the Department of Defense's Best Antiterrorism Program Manager Awards for 2007. The Dover team won these awards by completing over 20 antiterrorism and force protection initiatives that created a hard target security signature. These efforts paid off by deterring Fort Dix terrorists from attacking Dover AFB. This event permeated Air Force culture and is commonly referred to as the ``Dover Effect.''

Seventh, the promotion of energy conservation and environmental safety, including compliance, remediation, and stewardship, was considered.

The maintenance squadron at Dover was able to dramatically improve the process for cleaning ground equipment while also making it more environmentally sound. Formerly all ground equipment had to be moved to a separate wash facility primarily used for aircraft. Through careful research, a completely self-contained wash system with zero environmental impact was selected, designed, and installed in the ground equipment facility. This decreased travel time from 190 hours to 12 hours a year, a 94-percent savings. This increased the capability and availability for ground equipment, alleviated contractual issues that had arisen with the old cleaning system, and reduced the chance for aircraft delays. The new process is environmentally friendly and captures, filters, and recycles all waste water.

Dover also received the 2006 Secretary of Defense Environmental Restoration Award for Best Environmental Restoration Program for its restoration of natural resources used to support the base's warfighting mission. Dover reached the Defense Department's environmental goals 4 to 8 years ahead of schedule. Activities at Dover Air Force Base which earned this award include, but are not limited to: obtaining regulator signatures on six Records of Decision for 39 sites in 6 months; achieving Response Complete status at 27 of Dover's 59 sites; opening up 54 acres of formerly restricted land for use in supporting the base's mission; and completing Remedial Designs and Work Plans for 17 sites in only 3 months.

In addition, Dover won the 2006 Air Force General Thomas D. White Environmental Award which recognizes the efforts of installations and individuals to improve environmental quality, restoration, pollution prevention, recycling, and conservation of natural and cultural resources. Dover is 6 years ahead of schedule in its environmental remediation program.

These are the areas that the selection committee looked at when it decided which base was the best in the Air Force this past year. It is obvious that in every area, the Dover team took seriously the challenge to improve base operations and the quality of life wherever possible. From the smallest process improvements to the largest investments in critical infrastructure, Dover personnel found ways to do more. The result is not just that they upheld the base's long tradition of excellence, they surpassed it. In so doing, they have truly given our Nation their best and have made me and every Delawarean proud. We have always known Dover is the best in the Air Force. It is time the rest of the Nation knew about your excellence.

Congratulations, Dover Air Force Base!

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