NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein announced Tuesday that, over the next week or two, he will delegate to wing commanders the ability to waive crew relief restrictions as they see fit.
"We don't have a problem with crew rest at all," Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association's Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
"That's not the problem statement that we're even approaching. The question is, if we're in combat and we have a mission that's required, what is the decision authority where a commander then can make a call?" he said, alongside Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
The change is part of the service's overall goal to get rid of the policies that bog down airmen, Goldfein said.
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"If I'm even close to the attributes of [predicting] future warfare," more decisions must be made at lower levels for the service to be more agile with mission orders, he said.
"This is really just one more swing for the secretary and I, [where] we're looking at, 'How do we continue to push decision authority? How do we push decision authority down to the lowest practical level as a warfighting imperative?' " Goldfein said.
Crew rest rules dictate how much uninterrupted rest time an airman must have in order to fly.
"That isn't changing," Goldfein said. What's changing is who gets to waive limits "when [the] mission requires it."
In many cases, he said, the decision should come down to the squadron commander's level.
"Today, it's a fairly high level. What we're saying is that we trust commanders … we're sending a message to the force: We trust you to determine whether your force is ready to execute the mission," Goldfein continued.
He added, "You fight the way you train."
Wilson gave a recent personal anecdote of seeing outdated policies in action, in which she did not have authority to permanently change a regulation. She could, however, make an exception as the service secretary.
She was getting ready to speak at the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, Kentucky, as Hurricane Irma was approaching Florida, when her military executive officer came to her with a dilemma.
"A wing commander at Patrick Air Force Base, [Florida], who by the regulations had to submit a written request to be able to use his high-water vehicle to drive it to his domicile overnight because there's a prohibition of using military vehicles for domicile-to-duty travel," Wilson said.
The circumstances were dire: The commander had to get to and from work regardless of the storm and, at the time, Irma was a Category 5 storm soon to make landfall.
"I had to pull the reg for him" for this to happen, she said. "Because the regulation [to receive a waiver] says you need to start the paperwork 45 days in advance to ensure you have the authority" to do this.
"I'll spare you what I really said," Wilson said. "Obviously, we're just not scheduling our hurricanes well."
She added, "This doesn't make any sense, and every airman knows it doesn't make any sense. That's stupid. And we need to just say it's stupid and try to fix it."