2014: A year for trust and values
By Gene Kamena, Air War College
/ Published January 10, 2014
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Amidst New Year resolutions come opportunities to transform one's self: to improve, remake and revise. These offerings are also true for institutions such as the United States Air Force. As announced by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III, budget realities make changes in force structure a certainty for 2014. As exciting as new beginnings are, a sense of trepidation is in the air.
This commentary focuses on the civilian work force here are Maxwell but also concerns government civilians throughout the Air Force and the Department of Defense. Nothing is as disconcerting for government civilians as the phrase "reduction in force."
What events await us in 2014? No one knows for sure. The only thing that can be stated with certitude, for those serving the nation as an Air Force civilian, is that change is guaranteed in this new year. Having observed previous "draw-downs," albeit while wearing a uniform, there are some observations worth noting.
First, we have been here before. No two draw-downs are the same; however, there remains sound knowledge as to how to reduce the force with minimum turmoil. A number of tools are available to get the force to the place it needs to be: early retirements, transfers, offering-up vacant billets, attrition and more. The question remains: Are the numbers that the chief stated an end-state or just the first round? No one can be certain at this point.
Second, the Air Force will get it right. This reduction in force, as with previous ones, will not be perfect. None are. The Air Force, however, will get it right enough to meet its goal. Further adjustments might be required to ensure the force is equal to mission requirements.
Third, people accomplish missions. Regardless of what it is called - drawdown, reshaping, streamlining, rightsizing - it is about people: our friends, co-workers and colleagues, all of whom are people vested in the Air Force. Personal experience with reductions combined with a few years here at Maxwell informs me that the chain of command and the personnel managers know this is serious business: People's careers, lives and livelihoods are at stake. Families are affected by their decisions. Our leaders will do the very best they can given the task at hand to reduce the force.
What do we civilians expect from our leadership? To keep us informed for one. The Air Force does a good job of letting us know what is required and the process involved. Moreover, all we can ask of our chain of command is to be honest, fair and timely. Be honest in your dealing with us, be fair in applying the rules and instructions, and be timely with information, both good and bad. To reduce emotions and turbulence, trust must be maintained. Trust in the process, trust in our leaders and trust that the best decisions possible are arrived upon. Honest, fair and timely.
Finally, values matter. In tough times, values matter a lot. The Air Force Core Values provide a good guiderail when making and implementing tough decisions: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. These values underpin trust, up and down the chain of command.
The Air Force is a great organization. What makes it great? People. Good people, military and civilian, finding ways to get through difficult times - even a reduction in force.