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Research Questions

  1. How can the burden that Air Force inspection activities place on inspected units be reduced?
  2. How can the quality and relevance of the information collected by the Air Force inspection system be improved?
  3. Are there effective inspection and information collection practices in place elsewhere that the Air Force might emulate?

The Air Force relies on inspections by the Inspector General and assessments and evaluations by functional area managers to ensure that all wings comply with Air Force standards and are ready to execute their contingency missions. These oversight activities have grown dramatically over time, and the Inspector General of the Air Force (SAF/IG) is leading an Air Force-wide effort to reduce this burden while also improving the quality of oversight that the inspection system provides. In 2010, SAF/IG asked RAND Project AIR FORCE to collect and assess data on the inspection system and to identify effective inspection and information collection practices that the Air Force inspection system might emulate. Through a review of inspection practices as the Air Force Culture Assessment Tool program (AFCAST), the Air Force Climate Survey, and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) inspection system; an investigation of Air Force personnel's experiences in the field; and a review of literature on topics including leadership and organizational change, RAND formulated recommendations tailored to each of SAF/IG's five major inspection system goals: (1) choosing a better inspection interval, (2) reducing the inspection footprint, (3) increasing the emphasis on self-inspections and self-reporting, (4) introducing the new Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI), and (5) introducing the Management Internal Control Toolset (MICT). This is report provides an executive summary of the research and recommendations detailed in Charting the Course for a New Air Force Inspection System.

Key Findings

There Is Inconsistency Among Many Elements of the Current Inspection System

  • Interviewed Air Force inspectors and inspectees generally wanted synchronized inspections and assessments to be better integrated.
  • Air Force personnel indicated that the quality and the nature of wings' self-inspection programs, at least in their current incarnation, varied greatly.

There Is Often Skepticism Among Air Force Personnel About Proposed Changes

  • Air Force personnel had concerns about assessing leadership and discipline, particularly within the context of inspection.
  • While the interviewed Air Force inspectors and inspectees were generally in favor of a system like Management Internal Control Toolkit (MICT), they doubted that MICT will yield its promised benefits.


  • Consider adopting a formal risk management system to guide Air Force inspection-related decisions and activities.
  • Employ a formal approach to change management to plan, execute, and sustain change and ensure its maximum benefits.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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