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Connecting United States Air Force Core Values to Mission Accomplishment

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Research paper

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Recent violations of the Air Force Core Values by Airmen at all grades have caused some observers to question the ethical and moral health of the US Air Force. By introducing the Core Values, the US Air Force established an ethical foundation for all Airmen. Both intrinsic moral values and external drivers influence the decisions and actions of an individual. While many different factors may influence an individual to violate the Core Values, the common theme is that the Core Values, especially Integrity First, have lost connection to mission accomplishment. We define this disconnect as the Core Values Gap. Airmen often do not connect the Core Values to mission accomplishment and as a result many may not have a deep understanding or adoption of the Core Values in their work and personal lives. Four main drivers of this gap are examined and a four-step approach aimed to empower leaders and reform policies is recommended to enable the US Air Force to address the problem. By reviewing research on the theory of moral decision-making, examining case studies, and discussing ethics in the Air Force with two focus groups of Senior NCOs and Air War College students, a clear picture emerged that leadership is a key center of gravity to establishing an ethical climate. In addition, policies and institutional mechanisms play a major role in either incentivizing or discouraging ethical behavior. A four-step approach to address the problem is proposed namely, equip commanders with a tool called the Core Values Check educate them on how to instill the Core Values into their units daily operations provide commanders with a Core Values Toolkit to help them start regular Core Values discussions and reduce barriers to reporting infractions. By focusing on commanders as centers of gravity for influencing moral action, the US Air Force can create an environment that improves and promotes ethical behavior.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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