Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., discussed his strategic approach for the Air Force’s future during the Air Force Association’s 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium, Feb. 24.
His approach details how the Air Force can shape the future in order to rise above the challenges ahead. Brown first introduced his strategic approach for success called ‘Accelerate Change or Lose‘ August 31, 2020, explaining what must be done to ensure air superiority, and how to defend the United States and its interests through future challenges.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he explained. “I also think we’re changing a bit of the Air Force in how we approach some things. A cultural change takes some time. You’ll have some naysayers, some friction points, but I’ve got to be persistent and consistent on the focus I have … I’m going to be persistent and consistent on this throughout my tenure.”
Four action orders to accomplish that approach include: Action Order A: Airmen which focuses on improving systems and policies for Airmen. Action Order B: Bureaucracy is aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness in order to speed up the decision-making process and allow more space for innovation. Action Order C: Competition is designed to help Airmen understand their role in the strategic power competition. Action Order D: Design focuses on helping the Air Force adapt to change, including future budget constraints.
“I really wanted to lay a marker down and be very candid,” he said. “I’ve always hated bureaucracy. It really frustrates me when I watch how slow things happen sometimes when we know we can do better.”
Brown explained that some of these improvements involve the steps the service is taking with regard to extremism, racism and racial disparity in the Air Force.
“I laid this out in ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’; it’s the environment where all our Airmen can reach their full potential, including their families,” he said, explaining that the social detractors hinder that potential.
He described how progress has been made based on the results of the first racial disparity review, which included various recommendations and improvements for Airmen, Guardians and their families. A second racial disparity review was recently announced that includes a broader demographic focus.
“You can’t judge improvement if you don’t know where you are,” he said. “We wanted to use the first report and the second report to set up a baseline so we can actually have something of a benchmark to start from, to ensure we’re going to improve, and that’s where my focus is.”
“As a senior African-American officer, I was part of that council, and now as CSAF I have a chance to help share that council, and what I found is we’ve moved from talking about demographics to actionable-type items,” he said. “We’ve stood up barrier-analysis working groups that represent different diverse groups around our Air Force.”
Brown said these groups have made recommendations such as the recent changes in policy for women’s hair which provided him with all the information required to update Air Force dress and appearance standards.
“That’s an example of listening to our Airmen,” he said.
The Air Force has been making these improvements while getting the mission accomplished, all during a pandemic, Brown noted.
“My hat’s off to, not only our medical professionals, but really all of our Total Force Airmen, because we kept the mission going,” he said. “I’ve been asked the question ‘what did you quit doing?’ and I don’t know that we really quit doing anything, but we’re doing a lot of things differently. That’s what I take away from this experience … there are some things we’re doing probably better than we were before in some cases.”
He acknowledged that while some things have improved, new stressors have also emerged, such as childcare and school issues for working parents, and leadership is working to help those areas.
“As I look to the future, what I see is at some point, we will get past this COVID-19,” he said. “It’ll change how we work through some things, but we have to stay focused right now … We have to think of new ways we can do our mission in the future.”