In an interview at her Pentagon office Tuesday, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the rescinded Air Force instructions contained 4,795 individual rules, or “compliance items,” that no longer need to be followed.
“That’s a big deal,” Wilson said. “In my experience out with the airmen, it is the one thing that consistently gets spontaneous applause.”
The rescinded rules represent about 15 percent of the nearly 1,500 publications that were on the books last September, shortly after Wilson announced a two-year plan to go through AFIs one-by-one. When the team found AFIs that were outdated or inconsistent with other documents, the service either revised them or cut them out entirely.
The Air Force is also in the process of updating 212 other publications, and is “in formal coordination” with stakeholders on 309 more. Another 254 AFIs are not current, according to a chart provided by Wilson’s office.
Wilson said she’s continually amazed at the kind of rules she finds still on the books in the form of AFIs. When asked to identify the silliest rule she’s seen, she said it took four-star approval to get a waiver for a regulation governing when a wing commander can give airmen keys to the gym.
Wilson said the Air Force will continue combing through rules over the next year to find places to push decision-making authority to lower-level leaders.
“It’s annoying to airmen,” Wilson said of the flawed rules. “They’re inconsistent, there’s all kinds of problems in them. But really, this is a warfighting imperative. If we are really going to shift to be ready for a high-end fight [with major powers such as China or North Korea], where we have to deploy, disperse, [when there is] imperfect command and control, intermittent communications. If that’s the fight we have to prepare for, then we have to treat airmen that way in peacetime. And that means centralized mission direction and decentralized execution.”
Air Force officials began targeting pointless or outdated regulations, known by many in the service as “queep,” in 2016.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.