'Outstanding' FOAs credit teamwork

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

9/30/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- It's a tale of two field operating agencies: one on Maxwell and one on Gunter. Both share something in common: an "outstanding" rating on the recent compliance inspections.

The Air Force Historical Research Agency on Maxwell and Air Force Logistics Management Agency on Gunter each achieved the elite rating, a feat the leadership of both organizations attribute to interagency teamwork.

"A collaborative cross-inspection between the AFLMA and AFHRA really set the baseline for both organizations to achieve an 'outstanding' rating," said Phil Rehmert, prep team chief for AFLMA.

The AFLMA's score of 99.67 percent is the highest score for an Air Force field operating agency in the last three years and the highest in the agency's history, noted Lt. Col. Tim Harbor, AFLMA deputy director. All seven major graded areas were rated "outstanding."

The AFHRA started preparing for the compliance inspection at the end of the previous inspection, said Dr. Mary Dysart, AFHRA deputy director. "We immediately began to address the points the IG team raised and worked to correct our deficiencies." Dr. Charles O'Connell Jr., AFHRA director, kept the agency on a course of "maintaining a standard of excellence," she said.

Following the suggestion of Sam Shearin, AFHRA security manager, the two agencies began joint self-inspections. "AFLMA shared AFHRA's status as a field operating agency, and many of its functions corresponded with ours," said Dysart. "The cross inspections provided valuable insight into the processes we had in common and highlighted areas where improvements could be made. Using the information gathered during that process and during internal self-inspections, all members of our staff worked diligently to ensure that our operations were running 'by the book.'"

Rehmert said the cross-inspection helped the AFLMA team determine areas in need of further attention. "For the cross-inspection, we had our program managers sit down with AFHRA's program managers to go over checklist items, operating instructions and overall program execution to ensure compliance. We determined areas we needed to focus on and had these areas up to speed prior to the inspection. The key was aggressively working self-inspection write-ups, showing how we exceeded compliance requirements and working on program presentation."

Additional program staff assisted visits and an internal two-phase self-inspection process consisting of an assessment and a followup aided the process. "However, attaining the 99.67 percent rating can be directly attributed to our program managers' drive to maintain their programs to the highest standards," he said.

In addition to the joint effort, AFHRA's leadership credited teamwork at the agency. "The results of the CI reflect the hard work everyone here at the agency does on a day-to-day basis," O'Connell said.

The "culture of compliance" is also a big part of maintaining standards, he noted. "I think leaders at all levels must demonstrate, by what they do and what they say, the fundamental importance of knowing and following the policies and procedures that govern what we do all the time, not just when the IG is coming. If your organization is doing its best to follow the rules without cutting corners on a routine basis, getting ready for an IG visit should not be a big issue."

"Our program managers did a superb job in showcasing their hard work, and the result shows," Harbor said. "The (inspector general was) impressed. ... We're extremely proud of everyone for their hard work and commitment to excellence. Every person played an important role in achieving this score."