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New innovation award will recognize airmen for efficiency

Airmen could receive a new award for figuring out ways to save the service money, the Air Force announced.

The Gen. Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award, named after the Air Force vice chief of staff, is an annual award intended to recognize airmen who "share their creative and efficient ways to save money and time," an Air Force news release said.

"The real innovation is out in the field, and we need to cultivate those ideas and encourage those airmen," Spencer said at the Monday unveiling of his namesake award. "There are great ideas out there and we owe it to our airmen to listen to them."

The distinction will first be awarded July 23 at the Pentagon, the news release said.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James praised Spencer's commitment to reducing costs and improving productivity.

"The award is new, but what's not new is the laser focus on innovation and the passion that Gen. Spencer has brought to us in many ways," James said. "Gen. Spencer has put much of his personal time into innovation and efficiency."

Two programs in particular that Spencer supported have already saved the Air Force more than $35 million annually, James said. The Every Dollar Counts campaign is an effort to review acquisitions and operations to find areas of potential cost savings, and the Airmen Powered by Innovation website allows service members to submit ideas on how to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

"As I have traveled the Air Force, I see it working," James said. "I see that airmen are finding new, innovative and cost-saving ways to get our mission done."

When the website launched in April 2014, the service received hundreds of suggestions from airmen on the very first day, Spencer told the Air Force Times in September.

He said the website is designed so that airmen can read summaries of each other's ideas and provide better communication so service leaders can describe how they're working to implement a certain idea or why it may not work out.

"We want to make a big deal out of this," Spencer said in September. "We need to kick-start, regardless if sequestration comes back or not, because this is about a culture that every airman ought to come in every day, look around ... and say, 'Can I do it cheaper?' "

Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this report.

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