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Air Force IDEA program benefits all

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Feb. 26, 1999) -- You've just pulled out of the parking lot at your office and onto the street. A car, not necessarily speeding, has just missed broadsiding you. This isn't the first time this has happened to you. In fact, you've heard others in your office say the same thing.

"There needs to be a stop sign here!," you think to yourself.

Or perhaps you have repaired that one particular part from a C-5 just one too many times. You know why it breaks and how it breaks. You also know that if a different part were used, it could save the Air Force time and more importantly, it could save the Air Force money.

Since October 1997, Dover Air Force Base has been participating in the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness (IDEA) program, said Staff Sgt. Omar B. Then, IDEA analyst with the 436th Airlift Wing Manpower and Quality Office. The Air Force wide program encourages members to submit their ideas, with the hope the ideas will help save the Air Force money, which in turn will help the Air Force modernize itself.

"The main purpose of the IDEA program is to solicit money-saving and work-saving programs from individuals in the field," said Then. "Primarily, it is things that will make them do their jobs better; perhaps they are an expert in their jobs and they look at their job and think 'it doesn't make sense that we do it this way' and then they come up with a better way."

As an added incentive to the program, individuals submitting an idea that is approved and accepted by the Air Force are monetarily rewarded.

"There are two types of ideas which may receive awards: tangible and intangible," said Then. "For the intangible idea, the award is $200 if it is approved. An approved tangible idea will get you a maximum of $10,000, based on a 15 percent first year savings."

For example, a recent idea from Staff Sgt. John M. Hroncich 436th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, resulted in an improvement to a C-5 strobe light subassembly. The result to Dover Air Force Base was a first year saving of approximately $262,000 and $10,000 to Hroncich.

When a member has an improvement or suggestion, it is up to them to fill out the proper form in order to submit it. Members should speak to their supervisor for assistance with finding and filling out the proper forms.

"Once the supervisor fills out and signs the Air Force Form 1000, they send it on to 436th Airlift Wing Manpower and Quality Office," said Then. "Once it comes into our possession it is an IDEA. It could be approved, or disapproved. From us it goes to the office of primary responsibility or the squadrons for evaluation."

While Then noted that the majority of IDEA suggestions last year came from the logistics community, you don't have to be part of the Logistics Group to make a suggestion and reap the benefits of having your idea approved.

"Everybody can submit," said Then, although he noted that not everybody can get paid for it.

The program appears to be working well for Dover Air Force Base and for the Air Force. For fiscal year 1998, the IDEA program saved Dover Air Force Base $159,000 and saved the Air Force more than $150 million. In turn, the Air Force awarded a total of $4.3 million dollars to IDEA participants with approved ideas.

"Anybody out there can do it, even though most people think it is a hassle," said Staff Sgt. Jon Wedel, an instructor with the 373rd Training Squadron, and "prolific contributor to the IDEA program," according to Then.

"If you take the time to research an idea, you can do it," said Wedel, who has more than 20 IDEA approvals under his belt. "In addition to the money, the program gives young airmen the chance to be recognized by their commanders in a good light."

For more information about the IDEA program, contact the Manpower and Quality office at 677- 6691.