Inspector General - Breaking free of the inspection status quo

  • Published
  • By Vince Chapman
  • AEDC Inspector General

Many will recall the Inspector General (IG) inspections of the past. You know, the ones where the inspector breezed in with the standard clipboard, which was inevitably their “primary weapon of choice.” Without provocation, these inspectors could recite regulations that most had never heard of, let alone followed. They did this with as much ease and accuracy as one could normally recite the alphabet. Outwardly, they showed all the candor and zest of dried cement. They would only become animated if they discovered something had been done incorrectly, or not at all, then we would often witness this “cat that ate the canary” smirk light up their faces. After the gracious peppering of deficiencies, everyone suddenly had more curiosity of what was actually done correctly. The overall view of these inspections was terrible. I understand how those negative experiences could still be lingering in the minds of AEDC’s Airmen. Following that vein, I would like to bring things into focus by offering a brief look under the lens of today, where trust and transparency coexist by means of the evolving IG inspection system.

In 2013, the Air Force completely overhauled its compliance inspections and created the Air Force Inspection System (AFIS), which is still in use today. Fortunately, inspection success is no longer based on the number of deficiencies. The IG inspectors now focus on numerous data points to report on efficiency, effectiveness and readiness. Major Graded Areas include: Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit and Executing the Mission. So far, acceptance of risk at the appropriate level, has served as the greatest contributor of AFIS’s success. By virtue of becoming so small over time, the Air Force unintentionally allowed decision authority to migrate to higher levels than necessary. Because of this, today’s AFIS places more control and responsibility at the lower levels through their own internal Self-Assessment Programs.

Commanders need inspections which can be tailored to meet their specific mission requirements and support the development of skills needed to perform their mission tasks. To clarify, there are parts of the Air Force which are heavily compliance based and should be, for example: tasks associated with the stewardship of nuclear missiles. These tasks are standardized, checklist oriented and leave no room for variances. The same level of compliance needed in the nuclear missions is not necessary across all missions of the Air Force. Therefore, the Air Force must strive to be just as agile and fluid with their inspections as they are with their missions. Moreover, this means the ability to adapt quickly and have the authority to balance risk when necessary. A fundamental responsibility of the Office of Inspector General is to unite itself appropriately with the strategic vision and goals of the Wing and be perfectly aligned with what the commander needs from an inspection standpoint.

As AEDC pursues the mission excellence the nation demands from us, the Office of Inspector General is committed to doing our part in making AEDC “Second to None.”  First, our inspection regimen must remain fair and objective. Our inspections will always remain independent, and the IG won’t ever play the “gotcha” game. Instead, we will report with equal prominence, what we believe is good, and what we believe is not so good. Secondly, we will be transparent and maximize opportunities to communicate whenever possible. We will continually team with Subject Matter Experts across AEDC to seek their expertise and inputs. By using a team with diverse skills and experiences, we undoubtedly produce better results. We will also communicate at the appropriate levels the inspections we have planned and how we plan to execute them. In addition, the IG will keep leaders well-informed of any noticed impacts that could potentially impede operations.

In short, AEDC’s Office of Inspector General will continue to work hand-in-hand with the professionals of AEDC, in order to make AEDC superior in every way possible. Under AFIS, the holistic transformation of the inspection process is unending. As we fearlessly grasp opportunities to improve, we are breaking free from the status quo of the past. Not only at AEDC, but across the AF and Command, commitments to better serve our Nation’s Defense Strategy are ever-sweeping, and we are humbled to actively contribute to its success.