The Air Force's effort to root out redundant or pointless duties and training requirements — commonly known among airmen as queep — will gain momentum in 2017.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James made eliminating unnecessary additional duties a priority in 2016 as part of an effort to relieve the pressure on overworked airmen and make it easier for them to concentrate on their real jobs.
"The idea is to give back some of this precious time to airmen," James said in an Aug. 3 interview with Air Force Times. "I'm sure they all had a good reason for being when they were instituted. But the fact is, they have been increased and increased and increased to the point where, now, this is quite burdensome."
The Air Force in August identified 21 duties that would be reduced, realigned or eliminated. Eight duties, such as destruction officer, records custodian and web page maintainer, were cut altogether.
In October, the Air Force scrapped 15 training courses and consolidated another 16, cutting the amount of training time in half to a little less than 30 hours. Some training programs, on issues such as sexual assault and retaliation, were cut because the Air Force realized the topics were already covered extensively by other programs, meaning airmen had to learn the same information over and over again.
Other training, on things like self-aid and buddy care, were deemed to only be necessary for deploying airmen, so those courses will now be required only for airmen stationed at high-threat locations or slated to deploy.
And the annual mandatory fire extinguisher safety training, for example, will be replaced with a voluntary training opportunity during National Fire Prevention Month and informational materials provided by each base's fire chief.
In 2017, the Air Force will focus its attention on making sure these changes stick. An accountability review of the first round of additional duty cuts will take place early in 2017, and will ensure units and commanders are aware of and complying with these changes. The Air Force Inspector General Office also will make the changes part of its regular unit inspections.
Air Force officials said they would update regulations and policies to reflect the changes by the beginning of the year. Also, the Advanced Distributed Learning System that contains computerized training modules is expected to be updated by April 1 to reflect the new test-out options, reduced time frames and frequencies, and other changes made to training programs.
But so far, the Air Force has only been able to change requirements for which it has the sole responsibility. Other training courses and ancillary duties are required by Defense Department policy or law, and cutting or streamlining them is out of the Air Force's reach.
Service officials are now talking to lawmakers and Pentagon officials to get the authority to make further changes and free up more of airmen's time.
"We will never relax on this," said Gabe Camarillo, the Air Force's assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, in October. "We need to pay continuous attention to it."
Stephen Losey covers Air Force leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times.