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KNOXVILLE — Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley participated in process improvement leadership training at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, today, along with more than 20 senior leaders from across the Air Force.

Donley visited to refine his own skills and to see some of the training the university is providing. The Air Force is working to improve key processes to strengthen combat readiness while simultaneously saving scarce tax dollars.

The Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21) program stresses continuous process improvement to enhance Air Force performance in all mission areas. The Center for Executive Education in UT’s College of Business Administration is partnering with the Air Force to ensure airmen of all ranks can apply proven process improvement methodologies. The AFSO21 program helps the Air Force deal with the growing challenges of an aging fleet, increasing costs and expanding enemy capabilities.

“The AFSO21 program is a critical and enduring journey of innovation,” Donley said.

Donley participated in the two-day course in Knoxville to refresh his own knowledge and to see the training received by other service leaders. Air Force general officers, civil service leaders and command chief master sergeants typically participate, including such leaders from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

The training included a half-day of instruction in process improvement methodologies followed by a plant visit to see the industrial application of the methods taught in the class. The program concluded with a day of discussions on how Air Force leaders can apply the lessons learned to mission areas across the service.

“The University of Tennessee training supports AFSO21 by helping airmen identify performance gaps and find innovative and effective ways to accomplish the mission. It helps us bring everyone together to solve problems, exploit opportunities and maximize efficiencies. Tennessee’s training and research efforts are helping us strengthen war-winning capabilities and improve our quality service,” Donley said.

Donley’s trip also included a short visit with officers and cadets from the UT’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 800. He spoke to more than 40 cadets about the changing strategic environment and how the Air Force is adapting to meet the resulting challenges.  Donley also highlighted the need for strong leadership from junior officers and the importance of taking care of airmen, especially as the service engages in operations around the globe.

UT has been providing research, training and education in support of Air Force process improvement since the Air Force awarded the university a five-year, $25 million contract in 2006. The Center for Executive Education in UT’s College of Business Administration has trained more than 3,000 Air Force leaders since the partnership began. The research and training efforts have helped the Air Force improve key processes in virtually every mission area — from pharmacy operations to flightline maintenance and operational training.

C O N T A C T :

Cindy Raines, (865-974-4359,