Air Force Chief of Staff Calls out Leadership

Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh previously told Airmen to stop following guidance that was “stupid.”

“If it doesn’t make common sense, if it doesn’t make the mission better, if it doesn’t take better care of our people, then just don’t do it and tell your boss you’re done.”

Notably, his message was to Air Force leaders, explicitly telling them their people “don’t feel empowered” even to do what seems smart.

General Welsh recently hammered the point again, this time making the parental statement that Airmen should use “common sense:”

Common sense would dictate that if Airmen run across something in their duties that doesn’t make sense, then they should suggest better ways to do them, Welsh said…”If it doesn’t match common sense then I don’t care what it says in the AFI, let’s talk about it.”

There is enough to do, the general said, without blindly following guidelines or instructions that may have been in place for more than 20 years. Airmen need to identify things that don’t make sense and bring them to supervisors and commanders.

Supervisors and commanders owe these young airmen the respect and courtesy to listen, Welsh said. “When your young Airmen or NCOs or young officers come to you and say, ‘I don’t understand why we are doing things this way,’ pay attention,” the general said.

As the official Air Force article says, General Welsh even made a sarcastic point about the recent “campaign” in which Airmen were encouraged to submit cost saving ideas through a website:

“We did that campaign so I could ask this question: Why over 30 days did 11,000 airmen have to go to a website to offer a good idea?”

…Airmen don’t feel comfortable putting them forward, Welsh said. “They don’t think their supervisors or next level supervisors want them to make waves or their commanders will listen to them,” he said.

Those statements emphasize the point that General Welsh has been repeating:  It’s leaders in the Air Force who are the key to these issues.  Airmen have common sense — but when they’ve tried to use it, they’ve been rebuffed by their own leadership.

General Welsh promised to “practice what he preaches:”

[Welsh] has told the Air Staff in the Pentagon to include the common sense test in every decision they make.

General Welsh has been hitting on this point for months, so it appears to be a theme of his leadership (along with respect).  It will be interesting to see how this may play into service-wide policy decisions — or how he may influence institutional inertia by proactively changing policy.

For example.

Might religious freedom be the first beneficiary of institutional “common sense” in the Air Force?