Airmen 2.0: The Air Force’s human capital plan

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  • By Tech. Sgt. Torri Hendrix
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
A panel of personnel experts talked about the way ahead for equipping, training and growing future Airmen as part of a discussion during the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15 in Washington D.C.

“We are here because all of us have a filter of the lives we’ve lived up to this point,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the Air University commander and president. “The reality, when you look at the facts, America is really at a unique juncture in the history of our nation and in the history of our Department of Defense, where the world has changed foundationally.”

This change is in the form of rapid technology advancement and the Air Force is still operating under policies and procedures designed for conscription service. All members of the panel agreed responding and adapting more rapidly than potential adversaries is necessary to remain a relevant force into the future.

“The environment that we’re in today is a chaotic environment,” said Michelle LoweSolis, the director of plans and integration, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, Headquarters Air Force. “We’ve got a pace of change that is unmatched in the history of the world. The need for air, space and cyber power is increasing … on top of all of that, we’ve got resources that are decreasing. We have to react in minutes, not hours.”

The Air Force’s plan to harness and amplify its human capital involves several initiatives that focus on changing the culture and approach to the old way of doing things. Some of these changes include more performance-based promotions and compensation; potentially longer careers; better matching of talents to jobs; a more robust intermission program; the possibility of technical tracks and leadership tracks; more inclusion in diversity; and quality-of-life improvements.

“Airmen are as capable today as they ever have been,” said Daniel Sitterly, the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. “As long as we continue to educate, train and equip our Airmen, we’ll be the best Air Force in the world for a long time.”

One of the main points of discussion was the integration of the total force. The Air Force is reviewing plans for an integrated personnel and pay system, begin making total force policies and affording more permeability between components. These changes, however, will require strong and innovative leaders.

“Cultures do not change unless you have strong leadership,” Kwast said. “Leadership doesn’t happen unless you invest in it. I cannot overemphasize the fact this is a contact sport, and it requires everybody involved. It’s not enough to have words … it goes back to a culture of leadership, the profession of arms and the art of war.”

By innovating more rapidly than potential adversaries, the Air Force can continue to maintain its capability and technological edge, the panelists explained. However, it remains paramount to the success of the force that Airmen continue to strive to be technical experts and leaders within their fields and share information and ideas to turn existing technology into the fundamental tools of modern warfare.

“That’s why this is such an important conversation,” Kwast said. “The human capital plan is truly the third technological offset, because it starts with people –- if you get the people part right, the ideas take care of themselves.”