Changes in the Air Force Inspection System

  • Published
  • By David Bliesner
  • 341st Missile Wing Commander's Inspection Program
"Out with the old, in with the new" - we have all heard this expression and many of us have seen a multitude of changes take place as the Air Force has morphed and adopted new programs during the 21st century. One of those changes is just ahead in the creation of the Wing Commander's Inspection Program, or CCIP, within the updated Air Force Inspection System.

This new inspection system is a transformational change for commanders, staffs and wing-level Airmen. The old inspection system of prepping like crazy for occasional higher headquarters inspections promoted a false sense of security. We believed the inspection results we achieved after pouring untold thousands of hours into inspection preparation to strengthen atrophied organizational muscles actually gave us an accurate picture of our day-to-day mission readiness. In reality, this distanced us from truly understanding where we stood.

The unintended consequences of the old system included:

· An unhealthy imbalance between command and functional staff authority with unconstrained and unprioritized requirements generated by the staff.

· Thousands of man-years wasted on inspection readiness that contributed little to mission readiness.

· An unspoken but clearly understood message that how we look when the inspector general is looking is more important than who we really are every day.

The new AFIS is designed to address each of these issues. Fundamentally, the new system is about providing commanders at all levels with a supporting system to find and fix problems locally, and to provide the chain of command and staff high quality data concerning performance to improve policy and programming.

Commanders have the authority and legal responsibility to inspect their subordinates and subordinate units. In the new AFIS, wing commanders will inspect their own unit's ability to execute the mission, manage resources, lead people and improve performance using their CCIP. The program strengthens the wing commander's ability to focus on what matters most to them and gives the entire chain of command answers to the most important questions while reducing the need and incentive for inspection preparation.

The CCIP forms the foundation of the new AFIS and has two key components. The first is a timely self-assessment program, which reports compliance with requirements listed in self-assessment checklists to the chain of command and appropriate staffs. The program relies on Airmen routinely and honestly reporting their level of compliance with guidance. The second component is an inspection program, executed by the wing IG office with support from subject-matter experts from across the wing assembled to create a Wing Inspection Team. The WIT conducts inspection of units and functions much like higher headquarters has in the past. This provides an independent verification of the self-assessment and provides commanders with additional confidence in their validity and the unit's overall mission readiness. Under CCIP, "inspection prep" will be unnecessary and ineffective. Most inspections will be no notice. This should eventually become just another part of the way the wing works as Airmen focus on mission readiness every day. A robust CCIP capitalizes on both of these components to constantly find deficiencies and improve mission readiness.

What does this all mean, really? How does it impact you? Here are a few of the big ticket items that you will notice under the new system.

· Every Airman is a sensor: You should know the success of new AFIS relies on you. In this system every Airman must be a sensor capable of detecting and contributing to fixing areas of non-compliance with the guidance that tells us how to do our job. This is a pretty big change from the past where our inspection system relied heavily on headquarters inspectors to coming in and telling us where we fell short.

· "WIRED" mentality ... We're Inspection Ready Every Day: To aid in this in-house effort to ensure compliance, the wing IG office will be conducting detailed unit and functional inspections across the base throughout the year. This inspection program will begin in January 2014. As alluded to earlier, one of the fundamental shifts under this new system is the elimination of the utility and practice of inspection preparation in favor of getting a more accurate picture of day-to-day mission readiness and compliance. To ensure we meet this objective, the majority of these in-house inspection activities will be conducted on a no- or short-notice basis. This means all units must be inspection ready, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

· New AFIS, new mindset: To help us achieve the promise of the new AFIS construct you must understand the fundamental mindset change that underpins the new system. The system rewards accurate, honest reporting and a long-term commitment to process improvement, and discourages sugar-coated inaccurate reporting and effort wasted on inspection preparation. It is now a good thing when we identify a shortfall in compliance or mission readiness because we have the opportunity to fix it to become better at accomplishing the mission.

· Goodbye Unit Compliance Inspection: The new system will also mean the introduction of a new type of inspection known as the Unit Effectiveness Inspection. Unlike past inspection that focused on measuring mission effectiveness at the unit level this inspection team will focus more on validating the effectiveness of the wing's internal assessment capability to determine if the CCIP is providing an accurate and complete picture of mission readiness to the wing commander. You may not have realized this, but our first UEI currently is on-going as our higher headquarters' IG and staff reviews the self-assessment data provided. This UEI will culminate in a more traditional looking on-site Air Force Global Strike Command IG visit in the spring of 2015.

You've no doubt figured out that change is pretty constant within our Air Force. It can also be a bit painful at times and there will, no doubt, be some growing pains as this new program is implemented. It also holds great promise for Team Malmstrom members to step up and take full ownership of our responsibility for our critical mission by taking the lead in improving day-to-day mission readiness. By doing so, we'll deliver our fullest contribution to AFGSC's vital mission and its ultimate guarantee of our nation's sovereignty.