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Aug. 26, 2013—
During meetings with airmen in Hawaii last week, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh reiterated a theme to leadership and young enlisted members: allow airmen to take the initiative at the wing and squadron levels where the Air Force lives and works.

While the Defense Department has meant well by pushing efficiencies and cost-saving initiatives, one of the downsides is that these cuts have landed unduly on the support structures that have held the squadrons together for decades, placing additional burdens on airmen in the process.

"The squadron is the fundamental warfighting unit of our Air Force, and we cannot break it," said Welsh.

This is especially the case at a time when the service needs to retain its best people.

Billets ranging from administration support to training managers were cut back in order to be more efficient, but this has increased the load of administrative and overhead tasks, to the detriment of mission focus and preparedness.

Welsh noted that his office went through an estimated 11,000 suggestions from the service's recent "Every Dollar Counts" campaign. The great majority of the good suggestions came from airmen at the wing level and below, he said.

As part of the Air Force's examination of its personnel costs, Welsh said he discovered there are approximately 6,000 personnel, including those in field agencies and direct reporting units, who support the Air Staff in some manner.

"We have to fix that," he said.

Welsh said he is working hard to realize savings by reducing the size of the Air Staff, and then channel some of those funds back into supporting squadron functions.

The Secretariat and Air Staff need to get back in the business of supporting airmen doing their mission every day, he said, not the other way around.