Air Force Scraps, Revises Hundreds of Rules That Bog Down Airmen

Lightning Flight airmen salute as the American flag is raised March 19, 2019, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
Lightning Flight airmen salute as the American flag is raised March 19, 2019, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force has revised or eliminated hundreds of publications and rules that dictate unnecessary tasks that pull airmen away from their core mission.

According to a memo signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright on April 19, the service has combed through 778 regulations -- eliminating 328 of them and revising the remaining 450.

"The benefit to airmen is the elimination of unnecessary tasks, reduction of inspection checklist items, removal of duplicative instructions and elimination of conflicting guidance," the memo states. The news was first reported by Stars and Stripes last week.

"Decision authority is now pushed to the lowest level, and waiver authorities have been streamlined and are less cumbersome," according to the memo.

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The leaders are now gathering additional feedback from airmen, as well as lessons learned from the 24-month review process.

"We are committed to strengthening our culture of centralized mission direction and decentralized execution -- providing you the freedom to accomplish your mission," they said in the memo. "We trust you to take the initiative. Press on … don't wait for us!"

The review process isn't over. The memo states there are 719 regulations remaining, with 180 of them already slated to be removed. Roughly 30% of all publications are projected to be eliminated by this fall, it adds.

In 2017, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as "additional duties," typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. The service's overall goal for the streamlining is to revitalize squadrons by getting rid of policies that bog down airmen.

When he assumed his position in 2016, Goldfein made it a priority to reshape squadrons and allow for more responsibilities at lower levels. He has called squadrons "the fundamental unit, the beating heart of the Air Force."

Wilson's predecessor, Deborah Lee James, started a similar effort with Goldfein in 2016 by cutting unnecessary training courses for airmen.

During the annual Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber conference in 2017, Wilson related a personal anecdote of seeing outdated policies in action.

She said she was getting ready to speak at the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier that year 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 told reporters during a roundtable discussion at the conference.

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."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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