Creative, motivated Airmen are the key to changing how the Air Force does business, and every Airman has an equal opportunity to make a lasting contribution through the Airmen Powered by Innovation program, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.
Launched in April, API was initiated thanks to the success of the Make Every Dollar Count initiative, which generated 11,616 ideas in one month. Airmen Powered by Innovation combines and streamlines the processes of four legacy improvement programs: Innovative Development through Employee Awareness, Productivity Enhancing Capital Investment, Best Practices and Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century.
API is an enduring program that provides an outlet for Airmen's ideas to be tested and implemented.
"API is more than just another suggestion program," said Roger Flynt, the AFPC API program manager. "We must fundamentally change how we do business at every level of the Air Force and we must watch how we spend every dollar. Nobody is more aware (of) how much time, effort and money is wasted because of bad processes than the Airmen who do the job every day. That's who we need to get involved in API."
According to Flynt, in the month since the program launched, hundreds of Airmen have submitted ideas and those are being reviewed by field experts and decision makers to determine if implementation is feasible.
"Some of those ideas may not be accepted, but many will. A good rule of thumb is to suggest ideas that will save money, improve quality or productivity, decrease cycle time, improve processes or improve morale," Flynt said.
API is not the right venue for some concerns. Airmen who have personal complaints or concerns need to work through their chain of command to resolve those issues.
"We also ask that Airmen not submit a problem without a suggested solution. We need the bright, creative minds out there working together to help us solve problems, so if you see something that is wrong, tell us how you think it can be fixed," Flynt said.
Making a suggestion starts with developing and clearly articulating an idea to improve a process, situation or method.
"Look at your area of influence, look at where you work, question what you're spending, ask, 'can we do it differently, do we have to spend that much for it?' They're questions we'd ask ourselves if we were sitting at home balancing our checkbook," said Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff.
When developing a suggestion, Flynt recommends Airmen gather information about likely benefits, cost of implementation and who will be affected by the change, and advises that the Airmen take time to visit the local Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century representative for support, guidance and information.
"We're in this for the long haul, so suggestions need to be comprehensive and clearly beneficial to other Airmen, our service and our country," Flynt said.
Once an idea is ready for submission, Airmen can go to the API submission page.
Each submission is quality-checked to determine if the idea is ready for evaluation. If the idea is not specific enough, the AFPC idea cell will work with the submitter and may direct the submitter to their local AFSO 21 experts.
Ideas that are clear, specific and ready for evaluation will be reviewed by the idea cell and within three days will be submitted to the office with the authority to approve and implement the idea.
The approving authority will then have 30 days to respond with a decision and intention to implement.
"Depending on the nature of the idea, implementation may take months to accomplish and up to a year to quantify results as far as dollar or manpower savings," Flynt said.
Airmen will be notified within three days when their idea is forwarded to the decision maker, and again when the decision maker responds, up to 30 days.
While past suggestion programs relied heavily on monetary incentives to generate ideas, API is about Airmen and their stake in a better Air Force.
"Every Airman has a stake in making every dollar count," Flynt said. "Whether active duty, Reserve, Guard or civilian employee, we are all on the same team and we want what's best for our teammates and our service. That was abundantly clear in the number of type of ideas submitted so far."