The decades-old Personnel Reliability Program, or PRP, is used by all branches of service with duties tied to nuclear weapons to ensure personnel are reliable to perform nuclear-related responsibilities, and its standards apply on and off duty, said Col. Zannis Pappas, the chief, Functional Authority Division and Nuclear & Missile Operations career field manager.
“Certifying officials, who are normally commanders, constantly assess their folks, monitor the program, and watch for problems,” he said. “The whole base is tied into PRP monitoring, from our commander’s and supervisors, to the medical professionals and personnel agencies to a member’s peers and each individual on PRP.”
Everyone on PRP is obligated to report any changes in their work life or personal life that could affect their performance or affect their peers, Pappas said.
“If you were in a non-PRP job, you might not need to report a pending divorce to your unit commander,” he said. “If you are in a PRP job, you are required to do so.”
The colonel said the program is essential, but the time has come to streamline it to ease management and implementation.
To give a sense of the size and scope of the program, in 2012, more than 12,000 Air Force personnel were on PRP, requiring nearly 38,000 hours of base-level workload for program management and execution by the commanders, unit PRP monitors, medical and personnel agencies.
In April of 2013, the Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics undersecretary released the "Follow-on Review of the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise" by the Defense Science Board that, Pappas said, along with comments made by Airmen to the Air Force’s 2012 internal assessment of the Nuclear Enterprise, “highlighted the administrative burden the PRP has levied on our Airmen and made it clear that there were areas for improvement.”
This kicked off a major effort to improve the program, Pappas said.
Improvements included re-writing the Air Force manual on PRP (now AFMAN 13-501) to establish a consistent and understood standard across the Air Force, re-emphasizing PRP is a commander’s program and eliminating the need for supplemental PRP guidance below the headquarters Air Force level, Pappas said.
Additionally, it will clarify medical PRP guidance focused on ensuring members are physically and mentally fit for nuclear duty rather than an overly bureaucratic program.
The colonel explained PRP is important because it is a way to ensure something very subjective, such as an individual’s reliability and ability to do nuclear-related work, is objectively evaluated, managed and documented.
“Our rule of thumb is, when in doubt, report it,” Pappas said. “If a PRP individual is off their A-game for any reason, or has any life event that might distract them or cause their leadership to doubt their reliability with nuclear-related duties like something medical, financial, relationship, or legal, that individual or any other individual aware of the life event is expected to report it.”