Air Force Life Cycle Management Center executive director talks talent pipeline

“We have work to do,” Kathy Watern told Dayton Defense.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is huge. If the organization were a private business, it would rank fourth on the Fortune 500 list.

Finding, training and retaining talent for that sprawling, global effort is a full-time job, Kathy Watern, AFLCMC executive director, told a Dayton Defense lunch gathering Wednesday at the Fairborn Holiday Inn.

A member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service, Watern told Dayton Defense listeners that thousands showed up at recent AFLCMC hiring events in Fairborn and near Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

“There were a lot of people lined up,” she said of the March 22 event in Fairborn. “And I think that’s great.”

Referring to the even longer lines at the March 1 event at Robins, Watern joked: “When I first saw that, I said, ‘They’re in line for Taylor Swift tickets.’”

Responsible for developing, procuring and sustaining every piece of equipment in the Air Force, AFLCMC needs a constant infusion of talent, she said. Particularly at a time when 30% of all federal workers are expected to become retirement-eligible next year — although Watern cautioned that many employees are working longer these days, and it’s not expected that most federal employees will retire as soon as they are eligible.

Anchored at Wright-Patt, the center has more than 17,000 civilian employees at 79 locations worldwide, with about 36% of those in the Dayton area.

“That’s a lot of pipeline to keep filling,” Watern said.

The center manages more than 25,000 contracting actions valued at more than $35 billion, with total oversight of $310 billion in spending.

For perspective, in fiscal year 2022, AFLCMC spent 68% of the total budget of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), which is also headquartered at Wright-Patterson. And AFMC itself spent 72% of the total Air Force budget.

Said Watern: “That’s a pretty big chunk of the Air Force budget.”

In the quest for talent, she noted that AFLCMC is competing with Dayton Defense’s own member businesses, as well as big corporations nationally.

The center is also pushing against the fact that 42% of Americans are unaware of open civil service jobs or how to find them.

“We have work to do,” Watern said.

The center has produced a new brochure for job-seekers, which she shared with lunch guests Wednesday, touting flexible work arrangements that include remote or “telework” positions, three weeks of paid time off each year, with up to six weeks based on time of service, as well as 13 days of paid sick leave and 11 paid federal holidays.

As well as salaries that range from $50,000 to $90,000 a year for starting employees and up to $185,000 annually for senior level employees and technical specialists.

Watern pointed to AFLCMC’s career site at

Watern began her career in private industry and entered the federal civil service in 1984. She served in a variety of financial management and acquisition assignments at Wright-Patterson in the F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor, and Air Combat System Program Offices as well as the Acquisition Cost Division.

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