If sequestration returns as scheduled in two years, Wright-Patterson will likely confront more budget cuts, but Air Force leaders want to avoid a repeat of a round of furloughs of civilian workers, the new base commander said.
Just days into the job, Col. John M. Devillier will face large challenges the next two years. As the leader of the 5,000 airmen in the 88th Air Base Wing, he’s in effect the mayor of Wright-Patterson, which has more than 27,000 military and civilian employees and dozens of different tenants.
But none of those challenges may be bigger than upcoming defense budget reductions. In 2013, automatic budget cuts, and a partial federal government shutdown, sent thousands of airmen home through furloughs and meant immediate and drastic cuts in spending and operations.
“What we really need to anticipate is there’s probably going to be, if sequestration happens … more cuts in fiscal year ‘16 so we really have to be frugal and good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollar over the next year to prepare for that,” Devillier said Friday in an interview with the Dayton Daily News.
In the interim, Devillier said he’s focused on next year and can’t speculate on what the impact might be in 2016 or the possibility of another furlough. Even so, he said fiscal challenges will be his No. 1 priority. Devillier, 43, replaced Col. Cassie B. Barlow, who this month retired from the same post and faced those issues last year.
Fiscal uncertainty and unclear budget signals from Washington will likely be Devillier’s biggest adversary in the two years he’s wing commander at Wright-Patterson, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs in Washington, D.C.
Gessel said a partial federal government shutdown and employee furloughs were once unspoken.
“That possibility used to be beyond the realm of consideration and now that possibility has to be something that he will have to consider as a potential outcome,” said Gessel, who has worked on Wright-Patterson issues since the 1980s. “He has to consider that could happen again.
“I think that one period of furloughs may be something that we can get through, but if furloughs occur on a regular basis it could have a devastating effect on morale of the workforce and the ability to hire and retain the best employees,” Gessel said.
Devillier saw the impact of furloughs last year as the leader of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I do feel from my last position I saw the impact of furloughs because a large majority of my organization was civilian, that we broke faith with our civilian workforce, and I know the senior leadership of the Department of Defense feels the same way,” he said. “The intention is going to be to try to avoid that if at all possible.”
Devillier said building community partnerships with Wright-Patterson is in its infancy, but will expand. Wright-Patterson also has a future plan to lease sites on base to private developers. The Air Force has looked more to partnerships outside the fence line to compensate for declining budgets and unmet needs.
“We have areas on the installation that might be beneficial for our off-base partners (to lease) and that would provide some benefit back to us,” he said. “We’re still exploring all those types of options, but really everything is on the table.”
In his role as wing commander, Devillier said simply learning all the missions of over 100 tenants on the sprawling base has been its own challenge.
“Obviously, this is a huge organization,” he said. “I think probably my biggest challenge is just understanding the scope of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
A board of generals hand picked him for the job, which also marks his first permanent assignment at Wright-Patterson in his 21-year career, a position he said he’s “extremely honored” to have.
Along with budgets and managing the complexity of the base, the new commander may often find himself in the role of supporting U.S. forces in an international crisis, Gessel said.
“Wright-Patterson will be involved in any national security response to an international crisis and it will be the job of the Wright-Patterson commander to support the mission meeting that response,” Gessel said.
Devillier said his day begins early in the morning with a fitness workout. Then, he heads to the office for “meeting after meeting after meeting because there’s a lot of programs we have to oversee” on the base.
“We have to make tough decisions based on the data that we’re presented and that’s kind of what I get paid to do is make those tough calls,” he said.
When he’s not on the job, Devillier said he and his wife, Kathryn, are fans of the Green Bay Packers. Devillier, a Florida State University alumnus, said he’s devoted to college football, running and describes himself as “an avid gamer.” The couple has three daughters.
“My intention is to get out of the office and go to my daughters’ soccer games and do those type of things because that’s important,” he said. “You need a bit of balance in life.”
Learn more about the career of Col. Devillier and read our recent stories on the change of command at Wright-Patt at MyDaytonDailyNews.com
Here’s the official Air Force biography of Co. Devillier:
Col. John M. Devillier is Commander, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Dover Air Force Base, Del. AFMAO has global responsibility for all Air Force mortuary matters for current and past conflicts, operates the nation’s sole port mortuary, and provides global contingency mortuary response teams in support of Air Force and combatant command requirements. The mortuary also serves as the single focal point for all Air Force mortuary affairs and survivor assistance matters under the Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters Air Force.
Colonel Devillier is a 1993 graduate of officer training school and is a career force support officer having served in a variety of positions at Wing, Staff, Joint, and Headquarters Air Force levels.
Prior to serving in his current command, he was the Commander, 466th Air Expeditionary Group, Afghanistan.
1992 Bachelor of Science in Education, Florida State University, Fla.
1997 Master of Arts in History, California State University, Calif.
2001 Master of Organizational Management, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
2007 Master of Business Administration, Naval Postgraduate School, Calif.
2011 Master of Strategic Studies, Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
1. July 1993 - August 1994, Chief, Personnel and Relocations, 319th Mission Support Squadron, Grand Forks AFB, N.D.
2. August 1994 - February 1995, Squadron Section Commander, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Fla.
3. February 1995 - July 1996, executive officer, 325th Support Group, Tyndall AFB, Fla.
4. July 1996 - May 1997, Assistant Flight Commander, 325th Mission Support Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Fla.
5. May 1997 - December 1998, Recorder, USAF Officer Evaluation Boards, Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas
6. December 1998 - July 1999, Chief, Officer Separations, AFPC, Randolph AFB, Texas
7. July 1999 - June 2001, Air Force Intern, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
8. June 2001 - June 2003, Flight Commander, 56th Mission Support Squadron, Luke AFB, Ariz.
9. June 2003 - July 2004, Joint Personnel Plans Officer, United States Forces Korea, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea
10. July 2004 - November 2004, Chief, Personnel Plans, United States Northern Command, Peterson AFB, Colo.
11. November 2004 - June 2005, executive officer, Chief of Staff, NORTHCOM, Peterson AFB, Colo.
12. June 2005 - July 2006, Chief, Air Force Personnel Division, NORTHCOM, Peterson AFB, Colo.
13. July 2006 - July 2007, student, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif.
14. July 2007 - June 2009, Commander, 435th Mission Support Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
15. June 2009 - July 2010, executive officer to the Third Air Force Commander, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
16. July 2010 - July 2011, student, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
17. July 2011 - January 2012, Commander 466th Air Expeditionary Group, Afghanistan
18. May 2012 - Present, Commander, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Dover AFB, Del.
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Defense Meritorious Service Award with oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Award with three oak leaf clusters
Joint Service Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with star
Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Korean Defense Service Medal
NATO Defense Medal
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Second Lieutenant July 28, 1993
First Lieutenant July 28, 1995
Captain July 28, 1997
Major Jan.1, 2004
Lieutenant Colonel Sept. 1, 2007
Colonel Sept. 1, 2011