Inspections – a whole new world

  • Published
  • By Maj. Steven Schutt
  • Inspector general, 42nd Air Base Wing
This new year, like the many that came before, will bring change and opportunity for our Air Force and our Airmen.

One such change is the new inspector general criteria for inspections across Air Force installations. Team Maxwell is scheduled to receive a consolidated unit inspection in September. So what is a CUI and how is it any different from the unit compliance inspections conducted at Air Force installations just two years ago?

The short answer to your question is that the inspection process and the Air Force philosophy regarding inspections has also changed. Earlier this year, the Air Force released Air Force Instruction 90-201, "The Air Force Inspection System."

This new system has two parts: a revised external assessment by the major command IG team and a wing commander inspection program. This new system, which was tested in U.S. Air Forces in Europe, puts much of the oversight into the hands of the wing commanders.

So why change now? It is due to a paradigm shift in inspection philosophy and our Air Force operational tempo. Inspections have always been designed to evaluate compliance and readiness, two aspects crucial to a wing's ability to carry out its wartime and peacetime operations.

However, the emphasis on inspections surpassed the quality of mission readiness. The focus incorrectly shifted from mission-ready to inspection-ready. This philosophy caused wings to ramp up as they prepared for the inspection, push through the inspection and then back down to a steady-state ops tempo after the inspection. It created a roller coaster effect for operations and personnel. It was inefficient and was not the best use of Airmen's time, effort and energy.

The emphasis of the new inspection process is on steady state mission readiness, not preparing for an inspection every other year or so, but doing your job at a constantly high level focused on the mission. In simpler terms, this philosophy is about knowing your job well and doing your job well - every day.

The Air Force wanted to put the emphasis back on commanders and supervisors. As noted by Air Force Director of Inspections Col. Robert Hyde: "Supervisors know what great work looks like. They know what non-compliance looks like. We all hate inspection prep. The new system is intended to shift the focus from inspection-ready to mission-ready which will leave Airmen to do the jobs they signed up to do."

There are, of course, other factors that influenced this philosophical change in inspections. Inspections are becoming more virtual. Commanders will report compliance into a new database called the Management Internal Control Toolset, and MAJCOMs and wing commanders will have access to that information at all times.

The availability of information will allow for IG teams to review compliance status prior to inspections and reduce time that they are on base.

Another factor is the combination of inspections into one visit. The concept of the combined unit inspection allows for one inspection team on an installation for up to two weeks, conducting multiple inspections simultaneously, as seen in the chart. This again allows for Airmen to focus on their primary jobs and not face the potential of multiple inspections, with multiple inspection teams, throughout any given year.

Another major change affects the wing commander inspection program. In a nutshell, there are no more self-inspections. Instead, commanders are responsible for conducting self-assessments to validate the health of their units, which will be tracked through the Management Internal Control Toolset.

As a result of incorporating the self-assessment program, Air Force functional areas were tasked to reevaluate and edit old self-inspection checklists, verify if they correctly reflected Air Force instructions and remove superfluous or outdated checklists. This effort streamlined and improved the self-assessment process and increased its effectiveness.

Utilizing MICT gives commanders the same ability to see unit health as IG teams have prior to arriving for an inspection. This transparency of information will allow wing commanders to continuously view compliance status of their wing and emphasize the steady-state of mission readiness that is desired.

This new inspection process is being implemented now and will take two years to implement across the Air Force. As the 42nd Air Base Wing inspector general, it is my responsibility to educate our team on this new process, its tools and its focus.

This will be the first in a line of monthly articles providing information and updates, as we prepare Team Maxwell for our CUI in September. There also will be regular "CUI need-to-know's" and additional tidbits published in the Dispatch.

Now that we have a better understanding of the process, the question remains, how does all of this impact Maxwell AFB? It actually is quite simple. And it will be the focus of next month's commentary.