The secret to 'doing more with less'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Thatcher
  • 350th Air Refueling Squadron commander
In 1998 the Air Force began a draw down from a Cold War high of 600,000 Airmen to 350,000 Airmen in 2010. At the beginning of this down-sizing a phrase was coined: "Doing more with less." It was first presented as the solution to success and quickly became a message of necessity as unit manning was reduced.

Added to the strain of these "shrinking pains," the terrorist acts on 9/11 entered the U.S. into operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, mission changes are not all that have affected us. The U.S. has experienced stock market crashes, financial institution breakdowns, soaring fuel prices and skyrocketing health care costs. All of these put a strain on the total dollars available to the Air Force.

The bad news is that all of this is out of our control. But, there are things that are well within in our control. The point is not to fix those things that are out of our control but to understand "what" is driving us to fix things within our control. Knowing "what" helps you understand "why" we need your help to make this Wing, this Base and this Team better tomorrow than it is today.

We have a great framework to improve items within our control: Ready Airmen and Families, Ready Base and Ready Mobility. There is not enough room in this article to list every area for improvement so I will list a few to help get you started and then let you continue from there.

Ready Airmen and Families

We can't talk about Ready Airmen without talking about fitness. Fitness makes you stronger, more focused and more mentally aware. But it also makes you a healthier person. That reduces the number of times you have to go to the doctor, which lowers those skyrocketing health care costs.

Next, the Airmen and Family Rediness Center, Chapel, and Mental Health have a wealth of services to make you and your family ready for that next deployment or help you reunite from the last one. The more effectively you deal with your personal life and family the better equipped you are to do your job.

Finally, there's education. Whether it's a Community Collage of the Air Force, bachelor's or master's degree, it is beneficial to the Air Force. The process of critical thinking and problem solving gained from any learning experience helps you view your job in a new light. That helps you do your job more efficiently allowing you to accomplish the mission with less effort, manpower, or time.

Ready Base

One focus area for Ready Base is electricity. In addition to rising fuel costs the cost of energy generated from that fuel is on the rise. We can use less energy by being more conscious about turning off lights, computer monitors and other energy hogs when they are not actively being use to accomplish the mission.

A second focus area is facility management. Our buildings are in continual need of up keep. Minimizing that by ensuring we use our square footage wisely is one step in saving money. Consolidation of all base functions into a smaller footprint uses less resources.

Ready Mobility

Ready Mobility brings the other two areas together to form "the mission." A key focus area here is training. In order to execute when called, we have to make sure every team member is trained and current on every aspect of their job. This makes the mobility machine move.

As you can see, the framework: Ready Airmen & Families, Ready Base and Ready Mobility, helps us be more efficient at meeting our mission. The Air Force has also given us a great tool to help us continually improve within that framework. It's called Air Force Smart Operations in the 21st Century. AFSO21 is nothing more than applying common sense to everyday tasks. If something we do wastes time, energy, or resources, we should work through our chain of command to highlight those issues and stop doing them or modify them to make the mission more efficient.

The secret to "doing more with less" is ... we can't do more with less.

We have to continually work at "doing less with less" while still meeting 100 percent of the mission requirements. But the only way to do less with less is by continually searching out areas where we can improve and trim waste. Wasted time, wasted energy, or wasted resources equals wasted effort. Today we are 60 percent of the force we were when this base was built and when these airplanes were built. We have to move forward as a leaner, more efficient force. You're the expert that will help us do that. If you have a smart idea to make it happen, tell your supervisor or your unit AFSO21 representative.

I'll leave you with one final thought. Your body is a weapon system, your mind is a weapon system, your workplace is a weapon system, this base is a weapon system and they all need to be maintained as meticulously as the KC-135 Stratotankers on the flightline.