Commentary: Echoing a call for change

Robert Blevins
Chief, Customer Planning
Engineering Division
88th Civil Engineer Group

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Robert Blevins Chief, Customer Planning Engineering Division 88th Civil Engineer Group

We must think beyond traditional boundaries

Gen. CQ Brown’s 2020 charge to “accelerate change or lose” is our call to action and meet the challenges of our time. But as an Airman and civil engineer, what does this mean?

We already seem to be defined by change. The Air Force is driven by ever-changing geopolitical, economic and technological environments. Over the last 10 years, the Civil Engineer enterprise has responded with transformational change to organizations, processes and manpower. Fortunately, what remains unchanged are the talented and dedicated Air Force military, civilian and contractor members.

However, we still face one key challenge: reducing the cost of infrastructure and cost to maintain poorly utilized, outdated facilities.

Another way we can think about the Air Force chief of staff’s call to action is to ask, “How do we step away from our traditional mindset and collaborate across organizations to achieve our mission at a lower cost … and do it quickly?” We must start by reminding ourselves that nearly every decision we make, at every level, impacts the Air Force mission by putting pressure on already tight budgets.

As Airmen, we must think beyond our functional and organizational boundaries. We must consider cross-cutting measures that challenge the traditional mindset and expectations around facilities and how we use them.

In addition, we must remember the lessons from the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us we are resourceful and creative in getting the job done. Social strife related to race and equality taught us that diverse perspectives are important. This has given new meaning to the power of inclusiveness.

Recent focus on people and the workplace reminds us that Airmen well-being is critical to our collective success. As we come out of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to re-envision the workplace. Embracing Air Force ideals while we do so will ensure we are true to ourselves and maximize our collective effort.

We must challenge ourselves to collaborate in new ways. We need to embrace technology and change how we interact and exchange information.

In some cases, we may find our teams are not reliant on the traditional office setting. We may realize the most critical teams are made of individuals working together across organizations and doing their jobs from the airfield, workshops, labs, conference rooms, homes and offices.

When we’re successful, a transformed workplace will emerge. It will lessen our reliance on degraded and outdated facilities while enhancing mission effectiveness. Facilities will be adaptable and serve multiple purposes in an efficient and cost-effective way. The way we work will be different, more efficient and it will inspire the innovation needed to meet the challenges ahead.

Engineers lead the way!

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