Accession Number:



Communicating Why: Aligning the Air Force Message

Descriptive Note:

Research rept.

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



In the last two years, the Air Force released three strategic documents that describe who comprises the service, what the Air Force does, how it does it, and where it needs to go. For those familiar with Simon Sinek s book Start with Why, there is an obvious omission from all three of these foundational documents why WHY the Air Force or any organization does what it does is harder to express and articulate than WHAT or HOW, but Sinek argues it can be discovered by looking to the past at the life experience of an individual or small group. The life experiences of Brigadier General William Billy Mitchell as a Major in World War I France provide the genesis for the Air Force s WHY. Witnessing the bloodbath and slaughter from both the ground and aerial perspective caused an evolution in Mitchell s thinking about mass warfare and the supremacy of human blood and bone in combat. Modern warfare was an affront to America s WHY life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under his influence and leadership, the Army Aviation Section of the Signal Corps and its follow-on, the Army Air Service, would preserve lives WHY, both American and otherwise. Today, the Air Force does this not via technology or innovation, but by exploiting the operating environments that are untethered from terrestrial constraints i.e. air, space, and cyberspace in order to provide alternatives and options to civilian leaders that preserve as many lives as practicable HOW. The five core missions describe WHAT the Air Force does. The challenge for the Air Force is to start with WHY it does WHAT it does, infuse it throughout every aspect of the organization, and remain true to it. Otherwise, the Air Force will continue to be misaligned, working from the outside of Sinek s Golden Circle, starting with WHAT, sometimes discussing HOW although without consensus, and never inspiring with WHY.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement: