Air Force Uniform Board collaborative effort

By Brad Jessmer: Air Force Uniform Office

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Throughout the years, Air Force uniforms have evolved to meet modern day operational requirements, but few airmen know the process involved or who is responsible for these changes.

The biggest misconceptions seem to center around the uniform board. Contrary to what some believe, the board is not the source for uniform change ideas. In actuality, the board only convenes to sort through ideas and recommendations submitted through the Air Force’s IDEA Program Web page. These recommendations are by airmen for airmen, which includes all ranks throughout the Air Force. The uniform board does not create ideas.

In early 2008, the Virtual Uniform Board was created by a collaborative effort between officials in the Air Force Manpower Agency, Air Force Uniform Policies and Programs Office and the Air Force’s Plans and Integration Directorate. The VUB automates what was once established as a face-to-face Air Force Uniform Board. Instead of convening a physical board at one location, the VUB capitalizes on technology and saves temporary-duty expenses by providing board members access to board information at their home duty station.

Uniform boards typically convene every two to three years at the direction of the Air Force chief of staff.

“The process for implementing changes to our uniforms and equipment has evolved tremendously,” said Lt Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, AF/A1, or deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel at the Pentagon. “Every airman, regardless of rank or position, has an opportunity to be heard through the IDEA program to let us know how we may better equip our folks to perform the Air Force mission.”

The VUB process begins when airmen submit their ideas with a “uniform change request” through the Air Force IDEA program, which may be found on the Air Force Portal. When submitting a request, it must have a recommended change that includes rationale for the change.

Once a recommendation has been submitted, staff members in the IDEA office review it along with all other recommendations and eliminate exact duplications. In the event an exact duplication of an idea is received, only the first one to be submitted is forwarded to the VUB. When this process of elimination is complete, all remaining ideas are sent to the office at Headquarters Air Force responsible for ensuring items have not been submitted recently or are already being addressed or processed.

Once the policy review has been completed, the remaining recommendations are forwarded to a group of board advisors. Representatives of functional communities and members of the Uniform Enterprise Working Group make up the board’s advisory panel.

The UEWG is made up of representatives from the Air Force Uniforms and Recognition Branch, or AF/A1SO); the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia; Air Force Materials Support Division, or AF/A4LE; the Army Air Force Exchange Service; and the 648th Aeronautical Engineering Support Squadron here. These advisors are responsible for determining if there is a capability to support a recommendation or to make it a reality over time.

After the VUB advisors have reviewed the original actionable items and included their comments, an AF/ A1SO representative forwards the ideas to officials at the major commands, direct reporting units and forward operating agencies.

The process for MAJCOM, DRU and FOA reviewers has changed significantly with the advent of the VUB. Instead of only being able to review recommendations from within their respective command, they now receive all recommendations from across the Air Force. For example, a recommendation submitted by Air Combat Command is now also reviewed by representatives at the Air National Guard, Air Mobility Command, and so on.

After reviewers at the MAJCOMs, DRUs and FOAs have staffed all ideas through their own leadership, their POC provides the MAJCOM, DRU and/or FOA position back to AF/A1SO. Only recommendations with unanimous disapproval by all MAJCOM, DRU and FOA officials are rejected. All it takes is one to recommend an item to meet the board, and it is forwarded to the VUB for consideration.

The VUB is chaired by AF/A1 and co-chaired by the chief master sergeant of the Air Force. Voting members consist of representatives from functional communities on the Air Staff and Secretariat level, as well as representatives from MAJCOMs, DRUs and FOAs. The board composition is made up of representatives from the ranks of staff sergeant to lieutenant general. These members will recommend approval, disapproval or deferral for each uniform board entry.

After the VUB members have cast their votes and included their recommendations, the CMSAF reviews each idea and provides recommendations and comments. The CMSAF then forwards all recommendations to AF/A1 for review.

The AF/A1 reviews each recommendation and provides further recommendation and comments. Once the recommendations package leaves the AF/A1’s desk, all voting is considered final and the board package is then forwarded to the CSAF.

The CSAF will review all recommendations and make the final determination on what’s approved, disapproved or deferred for further research. Each approval, disapproval and referral is sent to the appropriate agency for action. Approvals from the CSAF automatically become requirements, and the process begins to research and develop these items.

Another type of decision process is called the “Out-of-Cycle Request,” which is considered outside the uniform board process. These requests come from the commander of a MAJCOM, DRU or FOA, or a functional lead on the Air Staff or Secretariat.

An Out-of-Cycle Request is received by a staff member in the uniforms and recognition branch, which completes a policy, capability and feasibility review. Once this review is completed, each is forwarded to AF/A1SO with a recommendation.

If the change is a minor uniform change or deals with wear policy, the AF/A1 may approve initiating a requirement for that item. If the request is a major uniform change, to include introducing a new uniform item, the CSAF would be the one to approve initiating the requirement. These approved requirements are then researched and developed for implementation.

To submit suggestions for consideration by the Air Force Uniform Board, please visit the AF IDEA Program Web page on the AF Portal.