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Operational readiness inspections get makeovers

Nov. 5, 2012 - 07:14AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 5, 2012 - 07:14AM  |  
Airman 1st Class Angela Jones of the 23rd Security Forces Squadron provides security at an entry control point with another member of the 23d SFS during a phase II operational readiness inspection at the field training exercise site March 30 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Team Moody trained with operational readiness exercises for eight months prior to the arrival of inspectors.
Airman 1st Class Angela Jones of the 23rd Security Forces Squadron provides security at an entry control point with another member of the 23d SFS during a phase II operational readiness inspection at the field training exercise site March 30 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Team Moody trained with operational readiness exercises for eight months prior to the arrival of inspectors. (Senior Airman Eileen Meier / Air Force)
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Get ready to say goodbye to traditional operation readiness inspections. Three years after the Air Force ramped up ORIs — and handed out the most unsatisfactory grades in a decade — it is looking at an overhaul.

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Get ready to say goodbye to traditional operation readiness inspections. Three years after the Air Force ramped up ORIs — and handed out the most unsatisfactory grades in a decade — it is looking at an overhaul.

A new system being tested at U.S. Air Forces in Europe turns the emphasis away from external inspections and puts much of the oversight into the hands of wing commanders.

"Supervisors know what great work looks like. They know what noncompliance looks like," said Air Force Director of Inspections Col. Robert Hyde.

The new system has two parts: a wing commander inspection program and an external assessment by the major command's inspector general team.

"The goal is to make it much more about helping the wing commander improve his or her unit," Hyde said.

The new system could begin at other major commands as early as next summer and could take about two years to go servicewide, Hyde said.

Here are five things you should know:

• Fewer external inspectors. Under the current system, a team of up to 100 members spends as long as two weeks taking what Hyde describes as a snapshot of the organization and assigns a grade from unsatisfactory to outstanding. Under the new system, a wing commander will continually evaluate compliance — and conduct his own inspections with the help of existing experts on a timeline he sets himself. He will report to the major command inspector general team, which will in turn make a "capstone visit" every two years to verify the wing commander's findings. These teams are much smaller and will spend less time on site.

• Inspections are part virtual. Wing commanders will report compliance into a new database called the management internal control toolset, MICT for short. Major commands will have access to that information at all times. For now, it is reviewed before inspections, cutting down on the time IG teams spend on base, said Lt. Col. Lisa Craig, an MICT field manager. The old Air Force Checklist Service will shut down Dec. 31.

• You'll spend less time prepping. Airmen now spend up to a year preparing for ORIs. "The word ‘inspection prep' is a bitter pill. If they say it, they spit afterward. We all hate inspection prep," Hyde said. The new system is intended to shift the focus from inspection-ready to mission-ready, which will leave airmen to do the jobs they signed up to do, he said.

• You may still have a no-notice inspection. Wing commanders, as well as the IG teams from the major command, can make surprise visits. They are also able to conduct virtual no-notice inspections, Hyde said.

• Every airman gets a voice. A piece of the new system includes a confidential survey given to every airman and his or her spouse about wing leadership — from staff sergeant to lieutenant colonel — and how leaders manage resources. You will also get to grade supervisors on how considerate they are of your time, what Hyde calls an airman's most precious commodity.

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