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April Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Wilcox, 169th Fighter Wing Inspector General at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Wilcox, 169th Fighter Wing Inspector General at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
The New Air Force Inspection System (AFIS)

The most common complaint about inspections I heard as an ACC IG inspector was with the high ops tempo, why couldn't the IG inspect when we actually deploy?  I had a standard response, but it really came down to that wasn't what the IG wanted to see.  ORIs had a standard format that actual deployments didn't fit. In many instances doing what made sense in combat didn't always maximize your mission effectiveness score during an ORI.  I remember being instructed as a new IG inspector that the answer to every UCI checklist question should be "Yes".  We joked, UCIs are simple, just comply with every AFI requirement, all the time.  Knowing the pet peeves of your inspector was as important as knowing your job.

As an Air Force, we wasted countless dollars on buckets, tape, sandbags, signs, reams of paper, and mountains of printer cartridges; just to fill three ring binders full of evidence of compliance with every AFI, all the time.  Wings would either cancel an AEF deployment or reschedule a readiness inspection in order to properly prepare for both.  It was actually written into the inspection AFI as a valid reason to reschedule, an admission of the increasing gulf between inspection readiness and mission readiness.  We did try to add a little flexibility to what the ACC IG was looking for while I was there, but honestly, I was part of a growing problem in the inspection system and its solution required dramatic change.

Air Force senior leadership recognized the problem and directed the Air Force IG to complete an assessment of the Air Force Inspection System.  The IG found it to be "insidious, inadequate, and unsustainable"...shocking honesty.  The report broadly indicted an overlapping system of over 100 inspections, requiring 350 days over a 5 year time frame.  Despite the massive effort, the system failed to provide accurate unit performance data to senior leadership.  Finally, the inspection system relied on external inspection and disconnected commanders from their Title 10 responsibility to inspect and report on the efficiency, economy, state of discipline, and readiness of their command.

After a test period, the AF instituted a new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS).  AFIS returns inspection authority to commanders by establishing a Commander's Inspection Program (CCIP) at each wing.  CCIP, the foundation of AFIS, is comprised of two key components.  First, an inspection program, directed by the Wing CC, executed by the Wing IG, and supported by subject matter experts of the Wing Inspection Team (WIT) tasked to inspect.  Second, a self-assessment program reports against Self- Assessment Communicators (SACs) using the Management Internal Control Toolset, or infamous MICT, to communicate status to the chain of command.  CCIP expanded the scope of inspections to four Major Graded Areas (MGAs), (1) Managing Resources, (2) Leading People, (3) Improving the Unit, and (4) Executing the Mission. 

The Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI) replaced ORIs and UCIs.  The UEI is not a single event but a 48-60 month, continual evaluation period.  While CCIP relies on self-inspection, MAJCOM IG inspectors will visit during our capstone in October 2017 and during small visits.  As an example, ACC IG inspectors, along with our WIT evaluated cargo and personnel processing for our last AEF deployment.  Instead of practicing packing, scrubbing folders, and standing in deployment lines for a year prior; we did what we needed to deploy and evaluated it.  At that time, AFIS was in its infancy, but even with an immature CCIP we eliminated wasteful inspection prep and focused on mission readiness, primary goals of the new system. 

Will the new AFIS survive or be tossed with other big ideas like TQM and QAFAs?  We will largely determine the success by our ability to adapt our culture.  MICT won't solve our problems, but will we use it to communicate our status honestly or just "green it up" hoping the WIT doesn't find it.  In the new inspection system, we have the flexibility to identify problems for commanders to either redirect resources to fix them or accept the risk of noncompliance.  In the new inspection system, sometimes the right answer is actually, "No".