Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Air Force and Its Priorities

Years ago, it was common to have a slogan in the Air Force. We went through various ones....SAC's favorite was "Peace is our profession". For a long time, we had "Fly, Fight, Win!" Today.....we basically have: Reorg, steal property, and dog & pony shows".

The chief three professions of today's Air Force all have a central theme and represent the best (or the worst, if you like) of our profession.

First, there is reorg. On a typical day in the Air Force....we have around 2,000 individuals spread out and working on the next reorganization of the Air Force headquarters, the major commands, the base level, or even at the squadron level. Its a tough act....you act serious but you really know that half of the reogranziations under discussion today and in various forms of achievement....are not going to be adapted. The other half? They will be adapted and then within twelve to twenty-four months....be resolved (typically meaning replaced because of failure). Most of the 2,000 folks are officers, although we give a significant amount of this reorg work to senior NCOs.

Reorg'ing is a fairly complex talent. You typically want to rename, renumber and steal bodies. The 44th Systems Support Squadron could easily be turned into the 419th Cyber Warfare Squadron (notice how we worked warfare into the name). One of the curious parts about reorganizing....is that somehow at the end....even though you started with 88 people....and you still have 88 people....then you come up with increased computer requirements and additional real estate requirements.

So now we move onto the second major area and mission.....stealing property. Typically on any given day on most bases....there are three to four guys walking around and measuring room space for various reorganizations. This effort usually involves the magic number of 120 square feet per individual....although we tend to violate that number whenever possible.

Stealing space is difficult because once people understand your mission....they tend to fight and argue over your tactic. The amusing thing is that in the significant amount of data involved....for some reason....the planners who perform property steals tend to ask for areas that require massive electrical circuits, yet there are none. Or they need a place that has significant AC coverage, and it has none. Or they need a warehouse area, which they settle for strictly for an office environment.

One of the curious results of property steals is that most of the folks who tend to sit in the new property.....are very dissatisfied with the results and this helps to push the "UNORGANIZATION" efforts that occur a year or two later. In one case, I watched a unit steal a property....settle it with old and crappy furniture for the new occupants. Twelve months later when they were finally going to get new furniture....a new reorg was announced and the whole area vacated shortly after that point.

Finally, the third element of the Air Force today....dog and pony shows. Basically, a number of units exist with a secondary purpose of just being a show place. If you work in such an atmosphere.....everything is kept tidy and organized 24-hours a day.....in hopes of a tour taking place. There are no pizza boxes out on the desks or trash cans half full. The "judges" who walk through will pause and attempt to ask nice or polite or professional questions....which the pony trainers or dog trainers are usually there to answer them....thus leaving you (the dog or pony) to do your actual real job.

Years ago, there might have been a dozen of such units in the entire Air Force. Today....I'd bet on hundreds of them. Dog and pony shows tend to subtract from the mission but have added value in getting more people to support your "sell". We now have professional dog and pony trainers. They could sell used cars for a living if you asked them. They could probably sell septic tanks if you asked them to.

So out there today....in the hallways of the Air Force....rest assured. We're doing the best we can and protecting the nation as best as we can. Somehow, someway....we'll get through this era, and one day.....we'll just fly, fight, win again. And maybe....just maybe....peace will be our profession....and SAC will be there to save us all.