Zander’s Leadership Built Air Force’s Capacity to Carry out Installation-Community Partnerships

Since legislation allowing installations and their host communities to share base support services was enacted in January 2013, Steven Zander has been the driving force behind the Air Force’s effort to take advantage of the new authority.

Zander’s visionary leadership of the Air Force’s Community Partnership Initiative has been the key to creating partnerships opportunities across the country, but more importantly to piloting the process for identifying, implementing and sustaining collaboration between installations and the communities that support them. Zander’s initiative comes as the Defense Department is struggling to cope with constrained budgets and focused on finding innovative ways to complete its mission. Installation-community partnerships under way so far are projected to save the federal government $2 million, as well as provide services that the service otherwise would have discontinued.

The service launched its Community Partnership Initiative at 16 installations in 2013, cultivating dozens of partnership agreements and identifying more than 400 specific partnership opportunities. Following that initial success, the service expanded the program to 30 additional installations this year.

The process Zander created for establishing new public-public and public-private partnerships at installations tapped into the intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit of community leaders. He trained a team of more than 50 Air Force “partnership brokers” versed in the art of “getting to yes.” Zander authored and coordinated the initiative’s charter, policy and guidance documents. He also led an effort to evaluate the program across government agencies, and spoke at numerous national conferences to spread the word about the success of the Community Partnership Initiative.

To date, installation-community partnership agreements have covered shared use of operational and medical training space, assets and expertise; energy and more efficient utilities and construction services; and family support programs, including library services, recreational programs, food service and mail delivery.

In a larger sense, Zander has laid the foundation for a mindset that turns military and civilian counterparts into collaborative stakeholders. The culture he has fostered encouraging installations and communities to reach public-public and public-private partnerships has changed the way the Air Force works with its host communities.

For catalyzing Air Force community partnerships by pulling together a diverse team, carrying out a far-reaching vision and benchmarking a process that is gaining national attention, Zander earned ADC’s Military Leadership Award. Award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony on Capitol Hill next month during the Defense Communities National Summit. 

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