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Inspection Readiness vs. Day-to-Day Readiness

Inspector in OCP uniform holding and writing on notepad

Members of the 102nd Intelligence Wing Crisis Action Team assembled during an Inspector General-driven exercise held on Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass. on February 28, 2019. Wing Airmen participate in simulations regularly in order to evaluate effectiveness, fine-tune processes and practice skills.

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --

In the past, thoughts and images of an inspector often conjured a sense of anxiety and panic. Armed with a checklist and a quota, the old “black-hat” inspectors would set out with one goal in mind; to find and report deficiencies. And if a deficiency was found, there was a good chance it would result in a bad performance report or the loss of a job. As a result, units often spent more time cleaning, polishing, and painting over any and all imperfections in hopes that inspectors would overlook a deficiency. This of course created two states of readiness; 1) day-to day-readiness; and 2) inspection readiness. The black-hat inspection methodologies resulted in inefficiencies, the tendency to hide problems, high levels of stress, and a false sense of readiness.

The Secretary of the Air Force Inspector General (SAF/IG) recognized this problem, and in 2011 challenged the United States Air Forces in Europe Inspector General (USAFE/IG) to develop and be the test-bed for the new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS). In an effort to shrink the difference between mission readiness and inspection readiness, the USAFE IG team worked tirelessly to build a sustainable AFIS where all Airmen know they can safely report the truth with accuracy and integrity. Focused on mission readiness and building a culture of disciplined compliance, the USAFE IG team eventually came up with much of the inspection system we have today.

The evolution of the AFIS is ongoing. With the foundation of the USAFE/IG’s efforts firmly intact, the recently revised AFI 90-201 (the instruction that provides policy for inspections), places even more emphasis on facilitating each commanders’ ability to continuously evaluate and routinely monitor their state of readiness across all fronts. This is done by:

• Evaluating leadership effectiveness, management performance and command climate.

• Enabling and strengthening commanders’ mission effectiveness and efficiency through independent assessment and reporting of readiness, economy, efficiency, state       of discipline and the ability to execute assigned missions.

• Identifying, reporting, and analyzing issues interfering with readiness.

• Reinforcing to commanders and Airmen at every level the equality of mission readiness and inspection readiness.

• Eliminating on-site inspections which aren’t mission relevant or detract from mission performance and readiness.

• Reducing the wasteful practice of inspection preparation.

• Fostering a culture of critical self-assessment, and continuous improvement.

To accomplish these goals, trust between commanders, Airmen, and the IG is paramount. The success of this “all-in” team concept hinges on that trust and our shared goal of improving our Wing’s mission effectiveness. How do we do this? By educating each other, maintaining healthy and productive communication, creating transparency, and most importantly developing, executing, and sustaining a grass-roots-type inspection process that highlights both our ability and inability to execute our unique mission set.

There is a two-pronged approach to help Wing Commanders achieve these objectives. The first is the self-assessment programs where individual Airmen evaluate their processes and report up the chain of command their compliance with guidance. The other is the independent verification (inspections and exercises) conducted by outside organizations (i.e., the IG). These independent verification processes provide commanders with additional confidence in their ability to execute the mission by evaluating and validating both the effectiveness of the Commander’s Inspection Program (CCIP) and the Wing’s state of readiness.

With this in mind, commanders and leaders rely on the CCIP to identify a unit's ability to comply with policy and guidance by highlighting resource limitations and wasteful practices that prevent compliance or increase mission risk. If done correctly, the CCIP provides the Wing Commander, subordinate commanders, and Airmen the right information at the right time to assess risk, identify areas for improvement, determine root causes, and precisely focus limited resources to fix issues affecting
readiness.

What does this all mean? Quite simply, it means Wing Commanders expect all Airmen at all levels and at all times to provide accurate and honest feedback so he/she can, with confidence, execute our very important mission. Therefore, we must continue to execute our inspections and self-assessments with the utmost honesty and integrity to ensure Wing Commanders hear what they needs to hear…not what we think they want to hear. The success of the mission greatly depends on it. It’s that simple.

If there is one thing to remember in this article, it is this….Units are inspection-ready when focused on mission readiness and building a culture of disciplined compliance.