HomeMediaArticle Display

Commentary: Air Force can't afford 'status quo'

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Recently Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee regarding a $32 billion cut in defense spending next year.
This represents approximately a five percent decrease of the proposed $614 billion budget.

While $26 billion is expected to be deleted from spending in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also noted the military will need additional money to restore itself, replace war-torn equipment, modernize weapons and retrain troops. So no matter how you look at it, spending cuts are going to affect almost every facet of our military careers.

As we look around the Wing and our Air Force, we already see some effects of stricter budgets in areas such as reduced dining facility hours and Fitness Assessment Cell restructuring. But another specific point Dempsey made was that these cuts, "will not lead to a military in decline."

So within these constraints, how will we continue to maintain normal operations? I propose we cannot. I am not saying we cannot maintain the world's most agile and powerful Air Force, but that we cannot maintain the status quo.

Maintaining status quo is to travel down the old road of, "do more with less," but this is just not tenable in the long term. And once we admit our Air Force must do less with less, we are able to ask perhaps the most important question -- "What can we stop doing?"

In the Air Force as in many civilian businesses, we must think lean. Lean is simply a method and mindset for reducing waste in all of the processes we use to execute our mission. This means scrutinizing any and all activities that do not add value or enhance the mission.

If it does not directly change the form, fit or function of our product, service or mission, then it is wasting our time, money and materiel. While some things may spring to mind when speaking of wasted time or money, identifying the waste is not always simple. In order to identify waste, we must first clearly define the specific mission or customer we are supporting. Secondly, we must be willing to change.

Despite what my Basic Training Instructor might say, we as leaders must encourage all Airmen to ask why. As senior noncommissioned officers in-charge, we must not cringe when we hear, "at my last base."

Often if you ask "why" enough, you can get down to the root cause of wasted resources. If you are willing to consider another's experiences you can share best practices, benchmark successes and avoid pitfalls.

However you say it, we have got to take a long hard look at what we do every day and be open to the idea that some of our actions are wasting resources which are better used elsewhere.

Through my involvement with Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO 21), I have seen lean and other process improvement tools put to use. There have been tremendous time and money savings across our Wing; and many of the ideas that led to these improvements were not from leadership but from junior members.

One improvement in restructuring the Medical Right Start program saved 120 hours a month for Wing newcomers, raised medical in-processing compliance to 100 percent, was showcased at a conference for Air Force medical leadership and was led by a Senior Airman (now SSgt Julia Faulks).

Although I do believe we cannot always do more with less, I'm also a realist and understand many of us will be called upon to work longer hours and take on more duties. We'll do so because the mission requires it and we've dedicated ourselves to service before self.

But at a time when we see impacts of spending cuts all around, we cannot afford to do things simply because it's always been done that way. Our Air Force culture, which continues to hold fast certain customs and traditions, must also be a culture of change and adaptability.

Original content found here.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Department of the Air Force does not exercise any responsibility or oversight of the content at external link destination.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of linked web sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this web site.