Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is calling on Airmen to find ways to cut through red tape and bureaucracy in order to meet mission needs quickly, as the service is working to develop Airmen who are capable in jobs outside their core career field.
In a Feb. 22 letter to the force, Brown said he has ordered wing commanders to find ways to empower Airmen at all levels, and get out of the way.
“Organizational structure is necessary, but we need Airmen who can cut through slow, ineffective processes and accelerate positive change,” Brown wrote in the memo. “Understandably, friction arises between maintaining rigorous checklist discipline and experimenting with new ideas. Fast and innovative does not mean makeshift and chaotic—responsibility goes hand-in-hand with empowerment. It does require the courage to respectfully question the status quo, assess risk, and take action while learning from setbacks and failures on our way to successes.”
In the letter, Brown highlights “multi-capable Airmen” from across the service who took it upon themselves to create new ways of doing things, such as refueling an MQ-9 with a fuel bladder in a C-130, hot-pit refueling and crew hot-swaps in KC-135s, and an “ethical construct” for artificial intelligence.
“Airmen asked the hard question of, ‘Why?’ and their leadership courageously responded with, ‘Why not?’” Brown wrote. “These Airmen were not afraid to try bold ideas that may not initially be met with success. Adopting this mindset across our force—in both operational and support roles—will allow us to protect the nation well into the future.”
The letter comes as the Air Force is developing its official process for multi-capable Airmen—training processes both centrally for the service and at wings across the globe—in what officials say is a needed cultural shift for the service.