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AF Program Offers Cash Incentives
By Franklin Fisher
Stars and Stripes
Pacific Edition

April 23, 2004

Not long ago, Senior Airman Joshua Morgan had an idea for improving how the Air Force tests the missiles hooked up to F-16 fighter jets at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

Morgan, who works with precision testing gadgets for the 8th Maintenance Squadron, noticed one piece of equipment gave a bogus reading on how much moisture might be accumulating inside its casing. It was a big deal because Kunsan airmen rely on the item, called an infrared target simulator, to test the condition of missiles.

According to its manual, the simulator's color-coded sensor window would show white or lavender if too much moisture built up inside the equipment. So when other colors appeared, airmen didn't take them as signs of moisture.

But Morgan found excessive moisture could trigger certain other colors except blue.

He'd already heard talk around base of an Air Force suggestion program that seeks ideas for making the Air Force work cheaper, faster, and better. So in January, Morgan used the program to suggest a fix to the moisture-checking problem.

Called the Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness program airmen just call it "the IDEA program" it will even pay money for suggestions that get adopted.

An individual who submits an idea that ends up saving the Air Force money "gets 15 percent of the first year's savings" not to exceed $10,000, said Capt. Paul Graddon, the 8th Fighter Wing's chief of manpower and organization.

However, if someone's idea for an improvement within his or her immediate set of job responsibilities saves the Air Force at least $20,000, that airman gets 3 percent of the first-year savings.

Ideas that lead to improvements but not a money savings pay "a flat $200," Graddon said.

"You log on to a Web page called the Idea Program Data System, or IPDS," he said. "It's very user-friendly." Airmen are asked to state how a job is done now, explain their idea, then describe how that would be an improvement.

The unit the idea might help evaluates it and decides whether to adopt it.

Morgan recommended a change in the simulator's testing procedure: to check for excessive moisture if it registers any color but blue.

A few weeks later, an e-mail arrived saying his idea was awaiting final approval; a few weeks after that, he learned it had been approved "and they were getting with finance to have the money deposited in my account." He earned $200.

Morgan said he and his wife "are using it for our new house" when he moves next month to his next assignment at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

It's caught on with some of his fellow airmen too, he said. "Actually, once they saw that I had submitted something and how easy it was, they started looking around to see what they could find to improve."

Since October, Kunsan's personnel have submitted 24 ideas; the previous fiscal year, 22 were submitted, Graddon said.

The Air Force idea program's Web address is ideas.randolph.af.mil/ipdswarn.html

"I think a lot of our airmen, NCOs, officers and civilians have good ideas, but they may not know the way to implement them or who owns the process,"

Graddon said. "This ... allows them, if they see something that they think can be done better, to suggest it."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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