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My Perspective on Action Order B: We must study it like we study an adversary

  • Published
  • By Col G. Hall Sebren Jr.
  • 72nd Air Base Wing

In my last commentary, we talked about taking care of our Airmen, which is the first Action Order laid out by Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown Jr.

This month we will discuss Action Order B: Bureaucracy

We all know bureaucracy exists in any large organization – it is a necessity to address complex Air Force-wide decisions, but not a requirement for all of our decisions. I believe bureaucracy across the wing requires a “tune-up” to enable us to make decisions at the speed needed to better support our mission partners, retirees, and dependents. Even with the best Airmen, poor organizational structure and bureaucratic process can be a barrier to increasing effectiveness, driving innovation or achieving success.

This article is a cry for help, if you will. I need your thoughts and ideas on where we can do better.

Here is why.

At Tinker, over the last 10 years the population outside the 72nd Air Base Wing has grown by roughly 2,300 people. In that same time, the ABW – the organization that supports every other unit on this installation – has shrunk by about 50 people. This is a problem. We have identified this issue all the way up the chain of command to the very top. Headquarters understands the issue, but manpower resources cannot be resolved in the next few years. 

I tell you this to say, help is not coming from the outside. We must do this. We must look at all the processes we work and all the policies we have and shed those things that do not make it easier to be more effective and efficient. 

I have directed the 72nd ABW personnel to look at each process and each policy and see where there might have been mission creep over the years. For example, perhaps in the past someone did not follow a process properly so some well-meaning person added a step to ensure that mistake didn’t happen again. And then later another person missed a different step so another double check was added. Over time those well-meaning adjustments have, perhaps, added a lot of time and complexity unnecessarily. We need to go back and remove those steps, ensuring the Airmen working those steps are properly trained, and get back to business. 

During this past year I asked the wing to look into increasing flow in the following areas: CAC issue, Visitor Control Center, vehicle search, deployment processing, and a few others. I wish I could report we’ve make significant progress in these areas, but we haven’t. But, we’re not alone.

“After over a year of analysis and work, significant progress on this action order has proven elusive,” said Chief Brown in his Action Order update. 

We have found some areas at the VCC to help our computers process faster, but the gains we were hoping for have not yet materialized. We’re down to just under 15 minutes to get a pass, on average. While this is about a 50% decrease, we can do better, we should do better, and we will do better. We’ve seen some improvements in other areas as well but we’re still not getting after this fast enough. 

I know a big issue out there right now is flow at the gates and having gates down for construction. We’re looking into how we can smooth flow that as much as possible as well. I have also looked at a return to trusted traveler but right now we have some security issues that prevent me from approving; however, by the end of the summer we might be in a place we can return to trusted traveler.

Team Tinker, what are your ideas for where we can gain ground? 

Mission partners, what issues are you seeing where we can be more effective and efficient for you?

Retirees and dependents what is an area we might be blind to?

Please pass these ideas in e-mail format to CommandersActionLine@us.af.mil. I will personally check this once a week to make sure you are being heard and we’re taking your idea into account. One thing I ask: be constructive, not destructive. Constructive can help, but destructive only makes one more thing we have to read that takes time away from some constructive feedback we might be able to act on.