Vandenberg embarks on unprecedented changes

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- We are serving in one of the most important, most defining, most challenging times ever in the 60 year history of our Air Force. While we are extremely fortunate and proud to be celebrating the awesome successes and contributions of Airmen that served before us, we will soon embark on a course marked by unprecedented changes in the way we accomplish our mission--changes that need to be made by every Airman at every level, from top to bottom. 

On November 7th, 2005 the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff signed a memo implementing the "Lean across the Air Force" process development and improvement strategy officially marking the beginning of a campaign intended to change our culture. That is, enabling all of us here at the 30th Space Wing to improve upon our daily processes and eliminate things that simply do not add value to our launch, range, and expeditionary missions. 

The Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century program, both at Air Force Space Command and locally here at Vandenberg provides the framework, concepts, and methods necessary to execute improvements in everything from simple tasks such as paperwork flow and job training to long term, more complex activities like space launch booster processing. 

Secretary Wynne recently stated, "Like any other organization, we have to constantly give value to our customers. AFSO 21 signifies a shift in our thinking as to how to provide value. It doesn't just look at how we can do each task better, but asks the tougher more important question 'Why are we doing it this way?' 'Is each of the tasks relevant, productive and value added?' in other words is it necessary?' With AFSO 21 we will march unnecessary work out the door." 

The first step in identifying a solution is having the courage to recognize a problem. AFSO 21 empowers all of us with the tools and techniques necessary to attack those problems and recognize opportunities for improvement. With your help and because of your many innovative suggestions, needed improvements are already in-place throughout the Wing. We've already reduced the amount of people and time required to coordinate reports and decorations, in-process the base, and accomplish medical evaluation boards. 

That's a good start, but we can do better. This past week, over 80 senior leaders including myself, the 30 SW Executive Director, the operations group commander, and the launch group commander left our blackberries and cell phones at home and sequestered ourselves in an effort to map and analyze launch processes that involve highly technical, precisely engineered, booster, range, and safety issues. Our goal: find a better way, solve complex problems, and do less with less. Specific processes were broken down into steps and milestones. Each step was then analyzed to determine the number of people required, the necessary time, and the intrinsic value. In doing so, inefficiencies, redundancies, and non-necessities emerged. This week-long session was historic not only because it was so successful, but also because it was, to date, the most in-depth look at spacelift processes ever to occur in the 49-year history of Vandenberg. 

Many times, organizations fail to meet expectations because the internal barriers to change are so strong. It takes work to embrace change. It doesn't happen overnight and it requires you to step out of your comfort zone with no real incentive other than knowing that the organization and the Air Force will be better as a result. For many of you, change is more threatening than challenging because you've heard stories of people who asked "dumb" questions or made off-the-wall suggestions and were ridiculed for their efforts. It doesn't require much thought to copy someone else's work or duplicate a process step-by-step to accomplish a task. If you just sit back and do things the way they've always been done, you're doing yourself and those who follow in your footsteps a huge disservice. Fortunately, now, in 2007 we are authorized and encouraged to forge a new path all the while sustaining our culture of excellence and doing everything we can to ensure that the Air Force is able to carry out its mission with unprecedented lethality and precision. 

AFSO 21 is all about the future. There really is no place for those that say, "It's not possible", "I don't care", or "We've never done it like that before." We're in the midst of an unprecedented transformation and the Global War on Terror continues to be unlike any war we've ever fought. While many things that occur in your life and in the course of world events are out of your control, you can be sure that with AFSO 21 and the pressing need for change, you are officially empowered--empowered to change the 30 SW and the Air Force; doing things that really matter, when they matter and doing them right ... the first time, with a focus and level of intensity that Airmen will look back on, recognize, and celebrate for the next 60 years!