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Airmindedness Without Airheadedness: A Way Ahead for Airmen to Lead Design

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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Operational Design has emerged as a significant doctrinal change to military planning methodology, and most U.S. Air Force Airmen have not been well equipped to practice it, still less to lead it, for several reasons. First, Air Force culture focuses on platforms and technology rather than critical thinking and problem solving. Second, this focus leads to a cultural celebration of tactics and the tactical level of warfare, at the expense of operational art and the broad, comprehensive perspective required by Design. Third, officers often avoid sufficient exposure to joint planning and operations, preferring Service-centric assignments and thereby limiting their comprehension of means to solve wicked problems. Finally, professional military education PME is underutilized as a way of correcting deficiencies in Design-like thinking.To remedy the situation, the Air Force must broaden its accessions beyond the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. It must also promote broad, joint career exposure and maintain momentum in the ongoing PME curriculum shift toward design. Airmen individually must practice leveraging the strengths of airmindedness while avoiding its pitfalls, and professionally prepare themselves through study. These measures will do much to prepare Airmen to practice and lead Design in a joint environment.

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