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Academy, Kirtland Airmen rewarded for API ideas

Luana Kennedy saved the Air Force $30,000 by submitting a suggestion to the Airmen Powered by Innovation program to adjust the pay grade and qualification for food service workers who provide extra support during cadet in-processing and Basic Cadet Training. Kennedy is an Academy human resources technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Amber Baillie)

Luana Kennedy saved the Air Force $30,000 by submitting a suggestion to the Airmen Powered by Innovation program to adjust the pay grade and qualification for food service workers who provide extra support during cadet in-processing and Basic Cadet Training. Kennedy is an Academy human resources technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Amber Baillie)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A human resources assistant at the Air Force Academy and an Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) officer at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, will be among the first to receive financial rewards from the Airmen Powered by Innovation program.

Every submitter whose idea is approved receives a $100 award in recognition of their achievement, and Airmen such as Ms. Luana Kennedy and 1st Lt. Benjamin J. Struebing, whose ideas have confirmed projected savings, will receive larger awards.

Kennedy submitted a suggestion to adjust the pay grade and qualifications for food service workers, part of the Academy's summer hire program. The changes allowed more students to apply for the position while decreasing the manpower and money used during the process.

"Just this summer alone, reclassifying the position from a WG-03 to a WG-01 saved the Academy over $30,000," Kennedy said. "It was needed and is a good improvement for everyone. I'd been thinking about it for a while – how to make the process more seamless."

Struebing, an operational test engineer, developed an automated method to reduce the amount of time it takes to gather and enter the essential data to support critical test program requirements, eliminating the need for two analysts to enter data by hand.

“The manpower model schedule updater pulls test program event dates from AFOTEC's internal program management website and inputs these dates into the manpower model,” Struebing said. “It also allows for better planning and efficient use of resources so AFOTEC can ensure a positive impact on delivering capabilities to warfighters expeditiously.”

Kennedy will receive $1,620 for her idea, and Struebing will receive $556.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of the API program because it shows that the Air Force values its members’ ideas,” Struebing said. “I submitted this idea originally so AFTOEC could test our own internal idea program and never expected to actually receive a monetary award.”

The program office released Air Force Instruction 38-402 formalizing API processes in early February, but Airmen embraced the opportunity to contribute immediately after the program’s launch in April 2014. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,900 ideas have been submitted.

Kennedy and Struebing’s ideas are among 78 approved ideas projected to save the Air Force more than $37 million, said Marilyn Thomas, Air Force Deputy Chief Management Officer and Director of Business Transformation.

“The API Program is doing an excellent job answering Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer’s call to action to make every dollar count,” Thomas said. “We are seeing ideas that range from simple administrative fixes that save time to major process changes that have the potential to save millions. The level of thought and research our Airmen are putting into their submissions makes it clear to me that API is a big win for our Air Force.”

(U.S. Air Force Academy and Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Public Affairs personnel contributed to this story.)

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