As a commander, my goals have always been to ensure mission readiness and enhance the quality of life for my Airmen. These are complex objectives, which can only be accomplished through multiple lines of effort. One initiative which substantially contributes toward both goals is organizational improvement.
It is also paramount that we keep the faith with our Airmen. Transparency is essential to increasing trust across our organization and improving our culture. Therefore, we must keep our people updated on current efforts and future projects. This includes both internal initiatives and Air Force, Department of Defense and Congressional actions which directly affect the Air Force Reserve.
One such action is a proposal to simplify the statutory authorities governing Reserve component service, which, if approved by Congress, will enhance our ability to support the joint force. The proposed duty status reform will also reduce the administrative burden on our Airmen and allow us to ensure continuous pay and benefits, such as health care, for members on orders, including deploying members.
However, this is not a quick fix. If approved, these reforms are expected to take several years to implement, because changing the current authorities will require modifications to multiple laws, instructions and regulations, as well as updates to pay and benefit systems.
Another, much simpler Congressional action concerning the Reserve Component is a bill which, if enacted, will remove the restrictions prohibiting federal employees from purchasing Tricare Reserve Select. If this bill is signed into law, all members of the select Reserve, including Air Reserve Technicians, will be eligible for Tricare Reserve Select.
This will ensure all Reserve Citizen Airmen have access to the same health care options at the same price, when not on active-duty orders.
Both these initiatives ultimately depend on Congressional approval, and neither is assured. However, we can guarantee improvements to the many aspects of our organization which we do control.
We’ve already made significant improvements to our medical readiness and the associated processes and programs. As I’m sure you’re well aware, at this time last year, the command had a backlog of more than 2,000 cases awaiting medical review. Today, that backlog is gone, and our medical review timeline has been reduced to less than 14 days.
We also revised the participation policy for members with duty limiting conditions. As of January, these individuals are no longer automatically placed in “no pay, no points” status and can participate in training within the limitations set by medical personnel, unless restricted by their commander on the basis of mission requirements, physical limitations and/or safety.
We recently started our next internal initiative, the reform of our manpower and personnel management processes and programs. We are taking a holistic approach to improving this critical component of our organization, which directly impacts every mission set and every Reserve Citizen Airman.
At the same time, we began tackling an issue which has frustrated many – travel pay.
Organizational improvement is a collective effort. Our operational readiness and our ability to support our Airmen will only be maximized if we optimize our effectiveness at every level. Every unit, from the smallest flight to the largest numbered Air Force, has internal policies and programs, which are controlled by unit personnel and can be improved by unit personnel. While individual influence varies, every Airmen has the power to enhance some aspect of our organization.
We will continue our efforts to increase our readiness and improve the quality of life for our Airmen at the command level. I encourage every Reservist to do the same in his or her unit.