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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A renewed effort to apply the Air Force program to trim waste and improve efficiency could trigger some big changes here, according to base officials.

Senior leaders at Misawa are looking at how to incorporate Air Force "Smart Operations 21," or AFSO 21, across the wing.

Led by 35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy and 35th Maintenance Group Commander Col. Cedric George, commanders and senior chiefs brainstormed for two days this week on Security Hill, emerging with a list of 14 wing mission priorities that will individually be scrutinized for waste and value.

"We’re going to be asking some pretty simple questions," George said. "Can I improve on the work? Is there any waste in that process? Should I be doing this at all?"

The Air Force launched AFSO 21 in 2006. Based on the civilian Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma business tools, the program is aimed at saving time and money, reducing waste and improving quality.

"This is the future of the Air Force," O’Shaughnessy said. "This is the way we are going to meet challenges in the upcoming years … with limited resources."

Misawa has successfully applied AFSO 21 in isolated pockets, among units and squadrons, George and O’Shaughnessy said.

But it was "time to start looking across the installation" and develop a strategy and vision for the wing around which to focus improvements, "giving us the biggest impact as soon as possible," O’Shaughnessy said.

At Misawa, teams will be formed to evaluate wing priorities through the AFSO 21 lens and recommend changes.

Among the areas that will get a first look this year: command and control leadership, or how the wing is run; sortie generation; flying hour program; and development and training of airmen.

"We’re going to involve airmen across each group depending on the process we’re looking at," George said of the evaluation teams. "Our airmen already have good ideas. We want to tap into that and help (them) focus that energy."

Airmen will be encouraged to think creatively, O’Shaughnessy said, and they "won’t be constrained by the way we currently do business."

"We’re moving from the mind-set of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it’ to ‘If it ain’t broke, can we improve it?’ " George said.

The process could affect the direction of future wing funding, the two commanders said.

Ultimately, "all of the resources we allocate — people and dollars — will be looked at through this lens" and how it fits in with the wing’s overall vision, said George, who is headed to U.S. Pacific Air Forces to run AFSO 21 for the entire command.

"It’s going to be a hard sell to allocate resources outside of that work," he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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