By Brian Brackens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
/ Published September 24, 2020
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Brig. Gen. John Newberry is the Program Executive Officer for Bombers. On June 30 he assumed leadership as the first PEO and director of the new Bombers Directorate.
The Bombers Directorate along with the now Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate led by Brig. Gen. Dale White, previously formed the Fighters and Bombers Directorate, but were split into two separate directorates.
As a long time acquisition expert, Newberry has tackled top challenges and successfully led some of the Air Force’s most important programs. As PEO for Bombers, he will lead efforts to ensure the safety, reliability and effectiveness of the aircraft responsible for one third of the nuclear deterrent triad.
Recently he sat down for an interview to discuss the new directorate and some of the successes his team of approximately 1,000 people, have had supporting the Air Force’s bomber fleet.
Q: Why was the Bombers Directorate created?
Newberry: The overarching reason for the stand up of the new directorate is that it reaffirms the Air Force’s focus on the nuclear enterprise. In addition, it establishes a single PEO to support Global Strike Command’s bomber aircraft, and increases an integrated focus on bomber modernization.
Our youngest bomber [B-2 Spirit] is 20 years old, and our oldest bomber the B-52 is 60 years old. It’s a mature fleet; you could say some are in their senior years. We have to sustain them and ensure they remain an enduring and credible force.
Q: What are your short and long term goals for the Bombers Directorate?
Newberry: In the short term, the goal is standing up the directorate. That may sound like a simple task but it’s not. We have to get positions filled, establish processes, and build culture and unit identity. In parallel, we are starting to plant the seeds for the long term objectives, which is the continual effort to sustain and modernize the fleet. We have to keep the bomber fleet going, and that’s no small challenge. We’ll continue to grow our partnership with Air Force Global Strike Command, with operational units, the Air Force Sustainment Center, and others.
I also want to focus on taking care of our people. Making sure they are developing as leaders, growing their professional skills as acquirers, and looking for opportunities for future advancement. In addition to taking care of them professionally, we have to look after them personally. In today’s world, there’s many new pressures with us. COVID-19 clearly has been a whole set of new stressors. I’m more concerned about the personal side of COVID. I’m mindful of the number of Americans in this country who are unemployed, and I guarantee you there are folks in the directorate that had two incomes earlier in the year and are now trying to figure out how to live on one income. Plus kids are out of school, aging parents are isolating themselves, and many other personal stressors. There are also other things going on in society to include the diversity and inclusion challenges and the upcoming election. Complicating matters is it is hard to interact with the workforce in this virtual environment we’re in. It’s even harder now to get clues that maybe someone is in trouble. We must rely on our small teams to understand their folks and to reach out to them if they feel they are in distress.
Q: You mentioned culture. How important is culture as you build the organization?
Newberry: I think culture is huge. It’s the language, processes, and procedures internal to the directorate. We are going to build the Bombers Directorate identity, culture, and language for the sole purpose to sustain our bomber fleet and modernize them for the future. It’s important to note that while the directorate is new, the divisions are not. The divisions were doing the missions before the 30 June stand up. They are doing the missions today and they are going to continue to do the missions tomorrow. We aligned those divisions under a single directorate under a single purpose to focus on bombers. We must continuously improve and go after those initiatives that best advance the bomber mission and the partnership with Global Strike Command. That’s building that new bomber culture.
Q: What does a successful culture look like to you?
Newberry: I think first of all it needs to be a healthy culture. A culture where folks take care of each other. A growing culture instead of a self-defeating one. A culture where folks feel empowered, are growing, learning, and helping each other. A successful culture is also always striving for excellence, comprised of professionals serving this Air Force, and performing their combat mission every day.
Q: Do you have any stories or examples of how your team is providing capabilities faster/sustaining bomber fleet?
Newberry: A lot of these efforts were underway even before the standup of the directorate, and we are continuing on with those efforts. The focus going forward is to continue to improve on the sustainment and modernization of the bomber fleet.
A few years ago the B-1 Lancer was in sad shape. A lot of aircraft were down for structural issues, parts issues, and the fleet was on a downward spiral. We need every bomber for our national military strategy, and we had to make a turn around. Due to the efforts of Global Strike Command, the operational units, as well as the B-1 Program Office, we were able to turn the corner. The B-1 is now much more available and we are on a positive trajectory improving the fleet’s structural health. It was a huge recovery, and a huge effort from the program office team and Boeing to understand the issues with the aircraft structures, to fix those and working with the warfighter to get the aircraft back in the air.
On the B-52 Stratofortress, it has healthy iron. It’s young in flight hours, but it is approaching senior citizen status in terms of calendar years. An exciting year is coming for the B-52. The Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) source selection is underway with award expected in 2021. There are also some unique aspects of the CERP in terms of digital engineering, and how we are using digital engineering to do prototyping, risk reduction and tech maturation for the aircraft integration effort. There’s a lot of other significant modernization efforts underway for the B-52, – including radar modernization – to put new capabilities on the aircraft and make it viable for years to come.
With the B-2 Spirit, we have a number of modernization efforts underway with the largest program, the replanned B-2 display modernization program, moving forward. The aircraft is mission ready and has been hitting increasing trends in aircraft availability recently.
Q: Any upcoming milestones?
Newberry: This calendar year, there’s no major acquisition milestones. However, every day there are small accomplishments across the bomber fleet. We have numerous modernization programs, depot deliveries, inspections, repairs, etc., and every day the program offices are doing herculean efforts. All the small efforts are having huge effect and there will be a few culminating milestones in 2021.
Q: So what are you most excited about?
Newberry: I’m really excited about starting something new and creating the new bomber culture within the directorate. I am also excited to be joining the greater Air Force bomber family. It’s a new challenge for me and the Directorate staff. But what’s great about being the first PEO Bombers is that it’s a new challenge for the overall organization too. I’m excited to help create that overall partnership between the materiel enterprise, SAF/AQ, and Global Strike Command. It’s going to be a great partnership.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
Newberry: The Directorate team is now three months on the job. Serving the bomber Divisions, helping them advance their particular bomber, and supporting them, is our primary task. I’m excited not only to continue to sustain the fleet but to modernize the bombers. There is an increased focus across the Air Force to the nuclear enterprise and as you know, the bombers are one third of the triad. There’s a lot of investment across the Air Force in the nuclear enterprise and bombers are an essential part of that. Bombers Directorate will increase the focus on bombers and I’m looking forward to the future here.