Air Force Times posted an article Saturday morning containing a Q&A session with an AFPC spokesman. The topic: AFPC’s lame attempt to save face after hosing 1,300 Senior Airmen out of their hard-earned promotion opportunity and then conducting a circular firing squad with those airmen in the middle as its sole official response.
For those joining us late, let’s review. Due to a series of clerical and administrative calamities for which no person is accountable, 1,300 promotion-eligible E-4s were never even considered in the recent E-5 promotion process. They found this out not from a supervisor or commander and not from an official AFPC announcement, email, or update to their records. Their first indication of a problem was the receipt of a scoresheet with a zero instead of a promotion score. Only when they asked what that meant did anyone bother explaining.
Then again, “explaining” … is elastically used in this case. AFPC initially issued statements blaming supervisors and commanders for not getting reports turned in on time. MAJCOM/A1s echoed this in emails chiding supervisors. One wing Command Chief told everyone to relax … that the sky wasn’t falling and that social media was to blame for the uproar. There was also an insistence that this was “no big deal” because a “mere” 1,300 hosed individuals represents a great improvement over last year’s 3,800.
This sort of duplicitous garbage is why no one trusts AFPC. What it really means is that 5,100 E-4s have spent weeks or months in promotion limbo over the last two cycles. This is an unacceptable number for any organization, but especially one that touts “Excellence in All We Do” as a core value.
Then again AFPC also made the claim that promotion tests have only been physically lost one time in the last 20 years. They don’t mention that the one time was just last year, that the 99 airmen caught up in that mess are still struggling to get it sorted out a year later, or that AFPC sometimes loses personnel records within its own building. “Integrity First,” anyone?
Different this time around is that airmen are becoming more vocal and expecting more from their leaders. Upon hearing AFPC’s limp excuses and blame-shifting, they pushed back in their units and on social media.
Naturally, AFPC’s commander, Maj. Gen. Peggy Poore, decided to speak directly to the issue and ease concerns, right? I mean, after all, that’s what leaders do, right?
Wrong. She trotted out a spokesman to talk to AF Times. Hence the Saturday article that largely re-hashes what’s already been said, adding voluminous, jargon-riddled talking points to an already toxic stew of propaganda. But to be fair, a few new details did emerge.
Turns out AFPC had the ability to solve 900 out of 1,300 problems right under its own roof, and has now magically done so. This was somehow impossible before the promotion process concluded, or in the interim between then and now. But hey, add in a little of that “unwarranted social media uproar,” and we’ve got the problem down to 400.
Those other 400? Their performance reports still haven’t arrived at AFPC. Whether this is due to late submission or base-level administrative errors/processing bottlenecks is not known, though my spider sense says the latter is more prevalent than the former across most of these cases.
Airmen have also told me that they’re getting mass distro emails directing anyone with a zero scoresheet to self-identify to their chain of command. Here’s an excerpt from one sent to all of AMC:
So it seems there is still some mystery as to who is impacted, which means there is no real plan for how to correct the situation. It’s another administrative pick-up game, with promotions on the line. Bush league to say the least.
The Air Force has been proving for years that despite having superb airmen assigned — people who work harder than should be required, take unending grief to a level well beyond what should be expected, and in many cases succumb to daily beat-downs by growing numbly apathetic — it continues to mismanage its way to the worst HR system in the service’s history. This despite being at its smallest size since 1947, which should make the HR task easier. We could keep attributing this to decisions that were made 10 years ago and the Sith Lords who made those decisions. That’ll be emotionally therapeutic. But it will net zero real impact.
Alternatively, A1 and AFPC “leaders” can stop tolerating mediocrity and revamp how business gets done, making it sustainable and posturing it such that excellent care for airmen can be reasonably expected. A good start would be to find the $5-7M necessary to modernize the promotion scoring process and get away from #2 pencils and bubblesheets that haven’t been “cutting edge” since the days when the F-4 was our premier fighter.
A better start would be for the General Officers we pay to take charge and take accountability when things go awry to stop hiding behind spokespersons and visibly lead the service through moments like this one. Their visible, concerned involvement would make a world of difference, and demonstrate at least a glimmer of hope that priorities will someday get back in order.