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Accelerate change – or lose

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – By now, I hope most of us have had an opportunity to read Air Force Chief of Staff General Brown’s Accelerate Change or Lose essay on the strategic challenges that face the Air Force. As one who enjoys discussions of overarching strategy and future conflict planning, it was easy to see how this was applicable to the Air Force – as well as our sister services if they care to take a look in the mirror.  

However, I have also had discussions with those who have a hard time relating such high-level strategic ideas into the day-to-day grind of their AFSC. Sometimes, I think it is good to simply take a step back and NOT look at it as some abstract idea, but as a framework of how the future of specific positions (not to mention the safety and security of our nation and the strategic and technological advantage we hold over our near-peer adversaries) is also at stake.

If we fail to maintain a competitive capability with the employers outside our gates, how can we expect to recruit – and retain – the best and brightest our country has to offer. We are all painfully aware that from a strictly pay standpoint, we often trail industry. As the Air Force, I believe we do a very good job of alleviating that shortcoming with a lucrative benefit package and the promise to allow our Airmen to be part of something bigger than their individual lives. Key to that is maintaining competitive empowerment policies and expanding our teams’ diversity of thought to allow each of us to realize our professional potential.

Empowerment does not mean abdication.

It takes the ACTIVE involvement of supervision to guide and assist members in making the best possible decisions and choices – with the flexibility and freedom to develop responses outside the routine. The same principles apply to encouraging diversity of thought. As the psychiatrist and academic Thomas Szasz said, “The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity … The Belief that there is only one right way … is the root cause of the greatest threat to man…” If you gather a group together to solve a problem that all have the same points of view, thoughts, backgrounds, etc., they will undoubtedly develop a solution they all agree upon. However, is it the BEST solution or just the only one they could see – based on the views they held when they entered the group?

Accelerating the change of the Air Force is only possible if we, as individual Airmen, also accelerate change. We must find the best solutions and best ideas and adopt the best technology has to offer in order to maintain our place as the best Air Force that the world has ever seen. In order to do that, we must continue to offer those who serve the opportunity to become the best they can be through empowerment and encouragement of diversity in thought and decision.