Off-Target: Air Force’s Command Cookbook a Recipe for Mediocrity

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“Effectively leading people is the art of command.”  This sentence, one of the few substantively or stylistically redeemable turns of phrase in the Air Force’s recently released Air Force Instruction 1-2: Commander’s Responsibilities, carries the weight of several rich ironies.

First, in a publication claiming command as its subject, the mention of leading people is not raised until this sentence appears, more than a third of the way through the instruction.  Second, this sentence deems leadership an “art” while the publication within which it appears envisions leadership as a matter of management science, achievable by following a straightforward cookbook.  But most of all, this sentence stands at stark odds with its subject in the most important of ways.  Leadership is about knowing people . . . remaining in touch with their lives, aspirations, and mentalities, and adapting style to situation to extract the highest level of performance from them.  In publishing this instruction, the Air Force has shown itself wildly out of touch with its own people. 

0-1-crayolasThis is merely the latest in a long series of ham-fisted attempts to heal the service’s ailing culture by writing things down.  Just a couple years ago, the service published AFI 1-1: Air Force Standards, a 34-page “compendium of the obvious” greeted in Air Force squadrons with a collective eye roll.   At that time, the chief complaint from airmen was that their own service must have considered them far less intelligent and capable than they actually were to think they needed such an infantile reminder of their most basic responsibilities.  Many pointed to the Airman’s Creed, a blunt device foisted upon the service at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a means of re-kindling martial tradition but widely panned as a hokey misapprehension by senior leaders, as the beginning of a torturous trend of addressing anecdotally observed concerns with “reminders.”  The problem, airmen contend, is that these perfunctory instruments alienate those who don’t need to be reminded and fail to influence those who do, meaning they accomplish nothing other than making senior leaders feel better about having “done something” to address issues that may or may not have needed their attention in the first place.

Cue AFI 1-2.  Apparently as a response to perceptions of ineffectual leadership and misconduct by a few outliers, Chief of Staff (CSAF) General Mark Welsh has sponsored a document that seems certain to frustrate the vast majority of his commanders. Not because they’ll have to comply with it, but because they’d have to be inept to need reminding of the concepts it outlines.

To the extent AFI 1-2 does offer anything new, the novelty is matched by misguidedness.  At a moment when all agree the demands of national defense are becoming more dynamic and uncertain, raising the premium placed on commander judgment, the service is moving in the opposite direction. By publishing a document that essentially tells commanders exactly how to do their jobs (or at least how they’ll be evaluated), the Air Force has left them scant latitude to adapt in the fluid circumstances likely to characterize future conflicts.  The emphasis of 1-2 is conduct and compliance rather than the judgment and ingenuity core to leading people in the 21st century.  Instead of innovating, commanders in the construct created by this publication will be busy proving to their own bosses that they’re baking the cake as instructed.

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Based on the feedback shared with me in the few days since AFI 1-2 was promulgated – feedback which will remain anonymous for obvious reasons – reception to this latest rulebook will be somewhere between grudging and seething.  Of course, since it came from the CSAF, it’ll be jammed down the throats of commanders at all levels as though etched on stone tablets and representative of absolute truth.  It seems fair, given the dissonance likely to be introduced by AFI 1-2, to provide a few critical observations.

It’s Insulting.  Commanders reading AFI 1-2 will likely wonder why the USAF thought they needed to be reminded of the bare minima for mediocre command.  The Air Force is seldom more selective than in choosing commanders, and should be confident enough in them and in its own development processes to see an instruction like this as superfluous.  If the service has qualms about the quality of its commanders, it should relieve those not measuring up and change its processes to ensure it develops and selects better ones in the future. For the vast majority at squadron level who are amazing, dynamic, and capable leaders, this document will be taken as a professional slight.

For a while now, General Welsh has been reportedly reminding his wing commanders of their duty to lead in tough times, an exhortation which has alienated many, triggering a quiet reflection along the lines of “what the hell do you think I’ve been trying to do?  And oh by the way, how about more resources and fewer demands.”  Many commanders at wing level and below believe the sickness currently gripping the service is a function of staffs dumping work on operational wings, constantly creating administrative task saturation without providing the time or resources to contend with it. This pulls commanders away from focusing on people and mission, allowing problems to sprout and grow in their blind spots. Having witnessed this first-hand as a squadron and deputy group commander, I can relate with those who find it somewhere between out-of-touch and disingenuous to pretend the problem of burden shifting by generals and their staffs can be solved by reminding commanders to do their jobs.

Channeling currently-sitting commanders: if CSAF wants to improve the efficacy of his commander cadre, he’s going to have to dig in and address things meaningfully by providing more resources and manpower along with fewer rules and requirements.  Welsh acted on that very intuition in 2012 when he ordered the restoration of Commander’s Support Staffs, but implementation hasn’t materialized for most, and needs headquarters follow-through.  Welsh has also reportedly told his commanders in the field to hold the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) to account for horrid communication, but the ability of commanders to get meaningful results is limited, and will remain that way until Welsh himself is seen correcting APFC’s sight picture.

Of course, if the service continues its cultural spiral, high performers will continue to bail out before reaching senior command billets, which could move more problems beyond the reach of Welsh, even if he adopts approaches superior to that envisioned by AFI 1-2.  This document is likely to insult commanders at multiple levels, tightening the descending spiral rather than breaking the spin that started it.

It’s Incomplete.  Assuming for a moment that commanders see past their misgivings and dutifully purse the edicts of AFI 1-2, it suffers from a few critical omissions that could make compliance impossible.  First, each of the responsibilities enumerated assumes resources with which to accomplish them – resources that in some cases don’t exist. For example, 1-2 admirably recognizes the importance of giving subordinates back their time and charges commanders with doing so.  But it doesn’t relieve commanders or their people of the onerous requirements foisted upon them over the last several years by dozens of functional communities incessantly competing for the calendar white space of airmen.

yokotaJust recently, airmen at Yokota Air Base were stopped at the front gate on the way back to their quarters after a night of celebration and camaraderie downtown.  The ensuing 100% drug sweep consumed approximately 45 man-days of time – all of it lifted right out of the calendars of airmen.  Undoubtedly, Yokota’s Wing Commander felt the sweep was necessary, and was probably convinced to undertake it by a functional area bureaucrat pointing to a requirement that it be conducted much the way it was.  For years, squadron commanders at Joint Base Charleston have complained of an administrative levy placed on them by the base security manager, who insists that commanders provide personal explanations in memorandum format any time one of their people makes a minor documentation error in checking out or turning in classified material.  It’s not uncommon for a dozen such memos to be generated by a single squadron in a week’s time – all based on one GS employee’s interpretation of a functional regulation that happens to touch squadron business.

These are minor examples of a macro phenomenon.  Commanders are routinely challenged by Functional Area Managers on headquarters staffs on everything from internal documentation practices to assignment decisions to how people are utilized in carrying out the squadron mission.  AFI 1-2 doesn’t discuss this problem, but assumes it doesn’t exist.  This is one of the many flawed assumptions upon which the document rests, and invalid assumptions risk invalidating the entire document.  I expect operational commanders will be particularly incensed that this instruction reminds them of their responsibility to train their people . . . something they’d love to do if only they could get mission relief and sufficient resources.  Many see their units slipping toward mediocrity and sound off about it regularly, only to be treated with empty reminders of the duty they’re desperately trying to fulfill.

A related but more fundamental omission is what might be called an “integration clause.”  In the law, a contract contains such a clause to represent to the parties involved that only what is written is applicable to the agreement, and no outside requirements can create additional obligations.  AFI 1-2 is not an integrated agreement, which means it’s not really a contract between the Air Force and commanders so much as collection of obligations that are not (nearly) all-inclusive.  It expresses what is necessary for commanders to succeed, but not what is sufficient. Leading people successfully can’t be achieved simply by following 1-2.  Commanders are responsible for thousands more pages of guidance, from the functional documents mentioned above to baseline human resource, fitness, and uniform policies written into other instructions.

Other regulations charge commanders with doing all sorts of non-negotiable things, creating all sorts of binding obligations.  Similarly, other documents give staffs, support agencies, and contractors authority over commanders and their people, creating more compliance requirements for commanders to meet.  When you add it all up, the reality is that a commander is always failing to comply with some amount of written guidance, and must decide where and how to contain necessary non-compliance in order to preserve the mission, not to mention hold on to his or her leadership role.

It’s Unrealistic.  AFI 1-2 charges commanders with safeguarding the morale of those they’re charged to lead.  Again, this is a basic point that shouldn’t need to be expressed in newly published instruction, and to the extent it does, this invites larger questions.  The problem with making it so explicit is that doing so demonstrates a widening of the already huge gap between the realities of life at wing level and the situational awareness of senior leaders.

RANDOLPHCommanders in today’s Air Force don’t have the ability to truly manage morale because they don’t get to make the big decisions.  While commanders have some influence over assignment nominations, their choices are tightly bounded. Final assignment dispositions are made by AFPC and airmen are informed by email.  Commanders aren’t even usually copied, and find out about assignments when they get back-briefed by recipients. (Remember, there’s no Commander’s Support Staff to track these things and keep a commander informed). 365-day deployments are handled purely by AFPC with no commander input and direct notification to selectees.  This is a grossly misguided process given the potential of a remote tour notification to overwhelm the coping ability of airmen already in troubled circumstances, but it’s the way the system works. Commanders are also cut out of the promotion and school selection loops – either because AFPC publishes results directly to a website, or because the chain of command simply informs everyone by email.  The ongoing drawdown provides a fresh example of the reduced role of the commander; airmen non-recommended for separation or retirement by the commanders were nonetheless approved, and vice versa.

The loss of these key “touch points” leaves commanders without access to some of the most meaningful and memorable moments in the lives of their airmen, removing critical morale-shaping opportunities.   When a commander can’t impact the things that are most important to airmen and their families, they become seen as little more than policy re-transmitters who occasionally dole out discipline.  This perceptual effect further undermines authority and effectiveness. Today’s generals came of age in a different paradigm where commander authority was more expansive. This instruction reflects a lack of understanding of how contextual differences make command different, and in many ways more difficult, in today’s Air Force.

It Portrays Institutional Insecurity. The message sent by making “Commander Conduct” the first substantive subject discussed, even before mission execution, is that the service doesn’t trust its commanders to behave themselves.  In making commander conduct a question by answering it, the Air Force gives unwarranted weight and prominence to something it should take for granted. That weight and prominence send an unmistakable message likely to corrode trust bonds within the chain of command.  Commander conduct should never occupy a scintilla of active thought. It should be trusted totally and implicitly unless reason exists to suggest otherwise.

The same is true when it comes to airmen. It’s never been necessary to remind leaders (good ones, anyway) that they have a duty to provide for the well being of subordinates. Until now.  AFI 1-2 doesn’t merely tell commanders to take care of people, but tells them how, making it an affirmative duty for commanders to know the personal lives of their people. By prodding commanders to avail themselves of the details of the private lives of their airmen, the service sends a message that it thinks airmen need tighter overwatch, more surveillance, and more control.

Good commanders know their people.  They can sense – either directly or through strong, well-built communication and front-line supervision – when someone on the team might be struggling.  They open the door and make help available.  Going beyond that into positive surveillance is ill advised for a host of reasons, not least of which is that high-functioning people need their own private interests, and being forced to share them with commanders will hurt morale rather than enhancing it.  But in any case, to the extent more motherhood might be advisable in some situations, the direction needn’t come from Air Force headquarters.  This will lead to inappropriate micromanagement and flawed incentives, with commanders evaluated according to how well they know what their airmen are doing during their off-duty time.

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One gets the sense that the Air Force doesn’t understand its own notions of leadership and command very well, and is compensating for a lack of problem comprehension by grappling for the stability and predictability of a sturdy rule structure. This is a bad fit for the subject of command, which is rooted in judgment and dynamic adaptation rather than the rote management of processes or commodities. AFI 1-2 doesn’t feel like it was influenced by experts, or directly authored by one of the many leaders who’ve taken airmen into combat over the last decade.  It feels instead like a document starving for valid perspective, perhaps crafted in isolation by generals or colonels drinking old wine out of new bottles.  It certainly doesn’t seem to represent the intent of the current Chief of Staff, instead reading like something written by Chiefs who are on the staff.

The Air Force has been disintegrating its own supervisory system for a while now, over the objections of commanders.  Support has been removed from units, workload has been increased, assignment bills have become unsustainable, training resources have been reduced, and both officers and NCOs have been promoted earlier and with less experience. Over time, this confluence of forces has led to some noticeable effects.  The service now responds to those effects by wrongly concluding commanders are the problem.  They’re not.  Regulations like this one won’t help.  If anything, AFI 1-2 will drive a few more officers with the requisite leadership skills off the command path and into civilian life.  The commanders I’ve spoken with are irate that while they’re screaming for mission relief, fixes to manning, and a functioning human resource system, the staff has been busy developing and publishing this instruction.  This isn’t the kind of “help” they’ve been hoping for.

I never like to critique without a recommendation, so here it is: rescind this instruction. Instead, conduct an internal conversation about the principles of command and leadership.  Reverse the errors that degraded the chain of command, and trust the leaders you’ve selected to do the job you hired them to do.   Affirm your confidence in them, grant them authority over support agencies and the power to resist staff mandates. With these actions, you’ll do more to improve the practice of command than a thousand checklists.

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  • Reggae

    TC the flaw is the people we detest the most…those who only cared about themselves are the ones propagating this BS. The 6 BTZers and quota fillers don’t know shit about leadership. Their squadron charges couldn’t wait for them to leave!

  • Stovetop

    As a former Sq/CC and Gp/CD, all I can say is “amen”. Amen, amen, amen.

  • 2Chains

    When I worked in Wing Staff, the NAF called us weekly for a favor, mostly short notice taskers. When we said, you need to call the Wing CC’s Secretary and coordinate your tasker with the WIng, they’d say oh yeah, then do the same thing week after week. The reason they did this is because every suspense was short notice, mostly due COB and they knew the Wing tasker list would not help them get what they needed, so in fact the HQ was skipping the chain and process and creating more work for us. If they want to give time off, eliminate ALL Calls and DV visits. Start eliminating what at one time was over 1,700 additional duties.
    Lastly, for the love of God, stop all the slogans and PR campaigns.

  • Otis R. Needleman

    Just another departure from my late, lamented Adult Air Force (AAF). In the AAF people were generally treated like adults and professionals. Commanders ran their units and had a good deal of latitude to use their common sense. Believe it’s time for a new CSAF…all hat, no cattle, unfortunately.

  • Stormy

    It’s telling that the OPR for 1-2 is SAF/IG….

  • e8

    Take a look at AFI 90-201, and you’ll see the similarities between how units are to be graded now during IG inspections (according to four Major Graded Areas under the new AF Inspection System) and AFI1-2.

  • Dave

    AFI 1-2 is actually one of many things the AF is doing to accomplish all the things the author argues the AF should do. It is a shame that the author is not aware of the many other changes that are happening as part of the complete picture.

    • Tony Carr

      If there are those things, it’s not just the author who doesn’t know about them, it’s the commanders in the field. The author departed a group deputy position just over a year ago but remains well-connected to commanders at squadron, group, and wing command and even above that level. If there are other initiatives in the works and they’re not classified, please inform us.

  • Dave

    Comment from a different Dave than posted the 0725 comment above:

    Tony,

    Interesting post but you are conflating the purpose of AFI 1-2 with the “art of leading people.”

    As one commenter adroitly noted, the POC for 1-2 is SAF/IG. If you read Gen Welsh’s comments (that you linked to) the intent is not for the AFI to be a “command cookbook” but to outline expectations for Commanders. As a former squadron commander, the AFI simply standardizes the pre-command speech given by Group and Wing Commanders. I personally have no problem with another document that directly links the four areas of an inspection to the four areas of command responsibility. Better to have two complementary documents than two diametrically opposed documents. If you view the AFI in the light it was presented, then the flow, content, and purpose make sense.

    If you want to discuss command cookbooks, look at Air Force Doctrine on leadership (https://doctrine.af.mil/dnv1vol2.htm) especially Chapter II. Goldfein’s book on sharing success, owning failure (published by AU Press) is another good document. AU-2 “Guidelines for Command” is probably still the authoritative guide for pre-command reading.

    You are correct about the general disintegration of the supervisory system over the past several years. If command is truly the engine that powers the Air Force, than we are failing miserably in keeping that engine tuned. Would be very interested to see your thoughts on how well PME prepares commanders for future command or how well mentoring is actually accomplished. In my experience, leadership PME (in all services except the USMC) tends to be a joke and the art of mentoring has generally declined to the point we rely on AFI’s, such as 1-2, to standardize the guidance and expectations for commanders.

    • Tony Carr

      Commanders don’t need more standardization. They need less. Along with more resources and reduced task load. Even if I take every word of your very thoughtful and appreciated post as valid, this is the equivalent to reading doctrine when we should be running the boldface.

      To the extent this document is supposed to be an IG and inspection alignment tool, the delivery of that message to the field has been conflated not by me, but by the USAF. General Welsh put his stamp on this thing with a label that says “Commander’s Responsibilities” and it follows and flows directly from 1-1. The AF issued a press release making this about expectations of commanders. If indeed that’s the purpose of this publication, it suffers from problems that deserve analysis (and deserved more analysis before they were published in the first place).

      My thoughts on PME are mixed, and I’ll save them principally for another post. Suffice to say that I don’t think PME does a terrible job, but I think its impact is constrained by what it seeks to compliment. Many of our officers don’t get meaningful large-unit leadership experience until they hit command. PME can’t bridge an experience gap that broad, so there is a bunch of OJT happening in USAF squadrons on a continuing basis. The service knows this . . . in AMC, it drives DO selection.

      This is obviously a large subject. But I remain convinced that if there is a root cause of the problems plaguing command these days, it’s not going to be solved or even influenced by a document like this . . . and that makes this the wrong input. I do, though, appreciate your perspective, and will continue to reflect on it.

      • TheJurgen

        My view is more in line with Dave’s. I’m a graduated Sq/CC serving on the Air Staff. I think this is a great pub. Wish I had it when I was in command. When I took command I read the command cookbooks, but was still left wondering what the exhaustive list of “Commander’s Programs” are. This guide doesn’t give us that specifically, but it does give us areas to self-inspect on and priorities – mission of Squadron before AEF.

        I also thought the review of 10 USC 8583 was handy. Never knew that was in Title 10. I would review what was on my DD Form 1 regularly to remind myself about the nature of an officer.

        I doubt this will be “jammed down the throats of commanders”. I would use this as a tool to jam right back up the chain when they want us to do stupid stuff that is not inside the scope of this document.

        Its not easy being the AF right now. We all know that. The CSAF knows it and he’s trying to fix the root cause too. If we throw a fit every time the AF publishes a creed or a Culture AFI or starts a campaign to improve the Air Force, we will get no where – we’ll implode from bitterness and infighting.

        One measureable, positive initiative the AF is doing to re-empower CCs is updating AFIs with the tiering system. CCs will have much more latitude to waive requirements and all AFIs will have inspection checklists that are authoritative so CC’s don’t have to build them from scratch from multiple sources. Plus the CSAF already gave all of us authority to stop doing the stupid stuff.

        TC – it’s easy to take this apart. It’s easy to criticize the chain of command, it’s much harder to take this and do what we all had to do as Sq/CCs – make lemonade out of limes. It’s also not easy to suggest a better document or a fix to this one.

        I’m proud of doing the best I could with the crappy hand I was dealt. I’m proud of my Airmen who persevered in spite of being under resourced. The key in today’s resource crunched environment is to find the ways to do more with what you have and Carry the Message to Garcia.

        • Tony Carr

          The position you take is an admirable one. Maintaining optimism and a positive outlook can very difficult in these times, and you seem like the kind of leader who figures out a way to do that even when you disagree with the corporation.

          I do think we differ on the state of the Air Force. I think we’re in the boldface right now. You seem a bit more optimistic, and I respect that even if I disagree sharply. We should be in the boldface and we’re not.

          I know General Welsh wants to improve things. I just think he’s taking bad advice or taking it from the wrong people. This AFI is a response to the belief he’s been developing that his Wg/CCs aren’t doing the things they should be. While that’s certainly true in some cases, none of them have the resources or tempo he had as a Wg/CC. I think that explains the dissonance between his message/solution and the issue/problem at wing level.

          What you’re getting from me in this blog post is a strong reaction not to just to AFI 1-2, but what it represents. Squadrons are the building block of the USAF, and we will rise or fall as they rise or fall. They’ve been decimated, and need to be restored. Welsh is the guy we were counting on to make that happen. He’s not going to get there with this pub.

          Appreciate your engagement on this thread — truly. Fire back at will. I’m just glad we’re discussing this, because to the extent it could impact how commanders do business, it’s important.

          • Anonymous

            If I need a manual to dictate how to be a good person, we are beyond boldface.

        • nomoreslogans

          Too many years of lemon from lime. More limes need to be shown to AF leadership. Noone is being fooled that it’s not real lemonade. Man I hate slogans, obvious sign of something broke.

        • John

          I think the key is that Air Force “Leaders” need to be told/taught how to lead people. Our system has run the majority of natural leaders out, while opening the pathway for box checking yes men/women to excel. This self-licking ice cream cone of promotion will only lead to more self-centered leaders be promoted by those they emulate. This is why the Air Force needs to keep publishing documents to teach “leadership” to people who have been mostly self-focused for 15 years to get selected for command.

      • One Term Wonder

        At the same time, however, airmen need some kind of defense against commanders and their gang of favorites. Even when the commanders eventually get fired for catastrophic mission failure, the airmen who were victims of him and his gang get no restitution from the bullying and politically motivated actions taken against them for the crime of trying to do the correct thing, follow regulations, and conduct the mission as tasked. The commander may be “forced into retirement,” but his criminal gang remains in place untouched and all those who sought to do the right thing remain with black marks against them. I have to say I’m on the fence as to what is worse for airmen: the callous disregard by disconnected staffs, or the active abuse by commanders and their gangs of thugs. For me, the only solution is to make a run for it as soon as the door cracks open.

    • Figanootz

      “In my experience, leadership PME (in all services except the USMC) tends to be a joke and the art of mentoring has generally declined to the point we rely on AFI’s, such as 1-2, to standardize the guidance and expectations for commanders.”

      I completely agree!

  • Mickey

    I agree with many of the points here. I left active duty as a Sq/DO. I “checked” more boxes along the way than most. After several years of convincing myself I was doing the right thing by trying to move up the chain despite seeing things that made me not want to, my breaking point came after a month as acting CC successfully running the Sq and cleaning up some administrative issues that were hanging. My feedback? A “mentoring” session about making sure I invited Gp staff in a timely fashion to the Sq/CC’s going away party.

    The measurement of leadership capability in the AF has become skewed by the ability to micromanage via e-mail and taskers . . . and how well commanders/leaders respond to them, not the success of their people in accomplishing the mission during an era of increased demand and decreased resources.

    I “grew up” believing in the concept of Centralized Control, Decentralized Execution, i.e., leaders at multiple levels being empowered to execute the mission based on guidance and mission goals. Tell me what needs to be accomplished, give me some resources, and I’ll lead my people to get the job done. This is now a fallacy. Centralized Control, Centralized Execution has become the norm. The AF has people it can blame when the Centralized Execution fails. They’re called Commanders.

  • Maj Lee Anoid

    The first I heard of this AFI was perusing the AF Times website a couple days ago. After reading the article I immediately did what I always do when hearing about new Instructions that directly impact me…. I went to E-pubs. But it’s not there as of this posting.
    So I did the next standard thing in that situation and asked my boss, the squadron Commander about it… he had not heard anything of the document.
    I fear that this is going to be yet another time/morale killing initiative that can only hurt our airman who are not stupid enough to miss the contradiction between this AFIs push to honor their time and our limited resources but all the while having to live with the reality of consistent requirements to the contrary (which come from the same chain of command that created this document).

    So we are left with really two options as intelligent subordinates when considering our leaders:
    1) Are they incompetent and that is why they can’t see the contradiction?
    2) Are they conscious of the disconnect and therefore morally much worse?
    Tony, you mentioned this AFI might exist out of a desire to make senior leaders feel better about having “done something”, but that would be on the side of calling their failure morally acceptable since they are not intentionally hurting people, which would shift the blame to indict the system that promoted them. The alternative is to believe it is an intentional act of creating valueless regulation that simply wastes our time to read and perpetuates the disconnect between inadequate requirements and not accepting actually doing less with less. But then the promotion system is still at fault for allowing self-serving leaders to climb the ladder and force weaker commanders to fold and just foist the burdens onto their airmen when they run out of the ability to say “no”.
    It reminds me of the fiscal cliff hysteria regarding the concept of avoiding dealing with the root problem and instead kicking the can down the road for some other administration to deal with…

  • 1000cuts

    These are leaders who at Corona decided blues Monday would boost morale. Hard truth is that things are beyond repair.

  • Lead

  • Anonymous

    Until the Air Force leadership recognizes there is a lack of core values within in its own ranks and takes pertinent action which people will acknowledge, we will continue to drive ethics to the lowest members but avoid the top. But then again, the first statement is contradictory in itself. More slogans and AFIs for all.

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  • AFIhurt

    First casuality of many more to come. This is a highly sensitive force we have of complaining, reporting and crying airman. The ones left after the collosal firings will be even worse, as they all are super special, firewall eval, and need constant stroking from their buddies in leadership.http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140531/NEWS/305310038/Relieved-command

  • ArmyofOne

    AF problem: CC and wife had parties and gave gifts. Army problem: CC escort wasn’t of age http://www.stripes.com/news/army/army-commander-denies-knowing-escort-was-a-minor-1.286327

  • MATBO

    Tony,

    Thoughtfully written opinion piece, and lively follow-on dialog.

    I’d like to reinforce your assertions that SQ commanders are hampered by a resourcing/organizational structure with misplaced metrics of success.

    An example is BMTS. To operate the organization more ‘efficiently’, the second officer was deleted from each SQ, and the NCO supervisory tanks were thinned (organizational principle: there is no value in oversight, just cost). MSMs for the HQ’s folks for coming up with ways to run the operation at a lower cost. Of course, the organization failed because there wasn’t enough time in the day for a single officer to supervise the TI’s. A newly assigned GP CC (career in special ops) was relieved because he was spending too little time answering e-mails, and more time in the work centers. After the organization failed, all local commanders were removed, a G.O. select team came in and re-instated the second officers and the mid-level supervisors (oversight re-established). Members of the select team received awards for their participation.

    Same theme in the missile SQs — to operate the organizations more efficiency the HQs removed the field grade supervisors (organizational principle no value in oversight, just cost). The organization failed, and the casualties were the local commanders. A G.O. select team came in and re-instated the mid-level supervisors (oversight re-established). Members of the select team received awards for their participation.

    There were never any consequences for designing a high risk/low cost organization, only for those who showed the organizational structure to be flawed.

    Now we’re seeing the structure of the AF installation support command, where MAJCOM staffs will be reduced to storefronts, and even DT participation will be eliminated from MAJCOMs. All guidance and resourcing will be from AFMC. When your single metric is lower cost, all cuts are successes.

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  • Tom

    BLUF. The Air Force only teaches management (poorly), not leadership.

    But what do you expect from a bunch of pilots who consistently expect others to serve them because they think they’re real “warriors”? The days of dogfighting are over and our commanders are simply overgrown xbox players who think they understand warfare. It’s time to go back to the Army Air Corps. We have no reason to exist except to support the real war fighters.

    The only thing that you need to do at any level of leadership is simple: provide direction, enforce standards, and above all take care of your people. It is not you who accomplishes the mission, it is your subordinates. You take care of them and they fulfill mission requirements

  • https://www.facebook.com/geoff.whisler Geoff Whisler

    My retirement ID card is almost old enough to drink – I was lucky enough to get an early retirement in 1994 during the “Peace Dividend”.

    What happened then was the genesis of this. During the Reagan years buildup, there was room for people to be promoted based on ability and initiative. The Peace Dividend draw down on average only retained well connected, political animals. (This is an ‘on average’ statement. Yes, there are examples that disprove this. But more political animals than capable leaders survived the purge, surviving to put their fingerprints on the service.)

    Political animals tend to promote political animals. They want yes men and yes men want to reap the benefits of all the years they said yes when they finally get command.

    This is a snowballing, self-maintaining process and in the history of the US only gets fixed when a President Lincoln or Roosevelt fires McClellan and puts in Eisenhower. If I can mix my metaphors and history…..

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  • Jeff

    I think it possible that the Air Force determined it needed a baseline for CCs to work off of due to the many highlights of CCs acting inappropriately either in their personal lives (Maj Gen Carey, Brig Gen Sinclair etc…) or by providing “toxic leadership” to their organizations (some ICBM squadron commanders highlighted during recent investigations into crews cheating on tests). This drives me to the conclusion that the root cause of thinking we need a document like this is that we have a lot of leaders being highlighted for not performing adequately and that the AF does not have a sufficiently robust system for selecting good leaders. When an organization removes 4 ICBM Operations Squadron Commanders from Malmstrom AFB at the same time, it makes me wonder whether or not we have the right process for having selected those leaders in the first place (or perhaps the Commanders above them for that matter). I have believed for a long time that the AF is very good at selecting smart people and promoting them… but that the AF is not as good at selecting good leaders and promoting them. It seems to be luck more than anything when you get a good leader that also has all the right checkboxes filled for the AF to consider them smart. It is appropriate to reflect on what a good leader should be and what the AF needs out of that leader. I agree with you that 1-2 should not be necessary if the AF had a better process to select its commanders. Our focus should be on the selection process. As an organization, we are very focused on individual accomplishments (NCO/CGO/FGO of the Year for example) and not as much on the accomplishments that the individual helped facilitate (Airmen belonging to the individual’s work center promoting, achieving CCAF degrees, CDC accomplishment, etc…). We have all seen Airmen that will go to the ends of the earth to support the objectives of those that genuinely care about them. You achieve the buy in of the force when they are truly cared for, respected and even sometimes pushed. Sometimes, especially in larger units, it is difficult for the good leaders, who spend hours working personal issues, or work center sustainment issues with their troops, to find the time to work on personal matters such as getting that Masters Degree to ensure the next promotion opportunity. The AF rewards the individual who achieves their own personal success before the individual that achieves success of those around them. Selection of leaders and commanders should be based on demonstrated potential to LEAD… NOT on how quickly one can complete the right checkboxes. The AF also spends a great deal of time grooming officers for leadership positions by sending them to the right schools and getting the right jobs leading up to command. Many of these jobs have nothing to do with leadership… instead, they do Exec time or Staff time which pull the individual out of the environment to practice good leadership. The AF should spend more time grooming leaders by giving them graduated leadership experience (section chief, OIC, Flt/CC etc…). These young leaders should be actively mentored in their decision making process during these opportunities (which is where the senior CGO/junior FGO leadership comes in that has been removed for so long). These should be loosely structured interactions with constant feedback (especially with the AF drastically reducing the opportunity to attend IDE). We must GROW leaders. Those individuals that don’t show the leadership potential to oversee troops, but still demonstrate the core values and appropriate skill, should possibly be moved to staff positions and perhaps kept on that track. I don’t believe the issue is that guidance was given in the form of 1-2 but that the CSAF felt it was needed to provide this baseline due to the a leadership core that has perhaps not been selected with leadership in mind.