JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Brig. Gen. Caroline Miller, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander, along with Command Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider, started off the New Year by hosting their “Tough Conversation” forum at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 5 with the topic of bureaucracy within the wing.
The command team has hosted these conversations of varying topics every other week since August, rotating between locations across JBSA to maximize diverse participation. They complete three iterations of the same topic with no more than 10 participants of diverse backgrounds, work experience, service affiliation and rank.
The topic this month focused on Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s “Bureaucracy” tenant from his recent action order “Accelerate, Change or Lose,” which discusses the need for the Air Force to speed up its decision-making by cutting out unnecessary redundancy and red tape.
The action order notes that current processes are too slow, allow for soft vetoes without accountability, incentivize counterproductive infighting and deliver sub-optimal solutions for the sake of compromise and consensus. Brown emphasizes that this must be addressed in order for the Air Force to effectively compete and win the high-end fight.
“We have a lot of bureaucracy here in the 502d ABW and we need to figure out how to cut through it,” Miller said, echoing Brown’s concerns.
“I want to push the decision making to lower levels and I should only do the things that I can only do,” the general added, noting the unnecessary amount of coordination on documents routed for her signature as an example.
To add to this sentiment, one member discussed the routing process for routine documents such as EPRs, OPRs and decorations that are especially redundant and unfair, since they are often required to be submitted months in advance of the rating or performance period.
“If there was one thing to cut out in the bureaucratic process to do your job better, what would it be,” Snider asked another participant.
“Speeding up purchasing within my unit would make a big difference,” the person replied, referring to the multiple funding accounts available for events, activities and facility improvements. Governing documents like Air Force Instructions, career field directives or internal operating document stipulations make identifying the appropriate funding tedious and prolongs execution. “I could easily pull money from this account to fund the request but since there are so many rules, I have to use a different account which requires a longer approval process.”
Another participant identified the in- and out-processing system as an Air Force-wide issue but primarily, due to the sheer size of JBSA, being a particularly cumbersome system here.
The general echoed that sentiment and assured those in attendance it is one key area her team is looking to streamline, mentioning that there have already been strides made in streamlining finance in-processing, but she will look more into JBSA as a whole.
“I love these discussions as it gives me a chance to see what is going on in the wing from those doing the work and seeing the issues,” Miller said, “We plan to continue having these a couple of times a month. The topics change, so feel free to attend again.”
Miller and Snider plan to tackle the overly bureaucratic processes during their tenure at JBSA to include key areas of focus such as in- and out-processing, empowering decision-making at lower levels and speeding up routine document routing.
The command team concluded the meeting by asking what the members in attendance would change if they were leaders for the day, without worrying about rules. Responses varied between allowing 100 percent telework to improving administrative systems throughout the Air Force.
Participants for these “Tough Conversations” are added to an email distro list from the general that provides a synopsis of the discussion and progress on initiatives taken as a result. The next discussion will be held at JBSA-Lackland Jan. 26. If you would like to participate, discuss with your leadership.