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Face of Defense: Air Guardsman’s Entrepreneurial Approach Earns Safety Award

By Air Force Capt. Lynn Lee
Special to American Forces Press Service

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., Feb. 11, 2009 – A revolutionary, entrepreneurial approach to safety program management has earned induction into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame for an Air National Guard officer here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan, center, is inducted into the Air Force Safety Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Feb. 6, 2009. With him are Air Force Maj. Gen. Maury Forsyth, commander of the Spaatz Center, and Air Force Col. Marcus Quint, chief of the Air National Guard Safety Directorate. U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Vaughan, former deputy director of safety for the Air National Guard, was recognized at a ceremony here Feb. 6 for his “unique contribution to safety and the U.S. Air Force mishap prevention program … resulting in enduring and significant advances to safety.”

An F-16 fighter pilot, Vaughan previously served combat flying tours with Indiana and New York Air National Guard flying squadrons in Iraq. In 2008, he transferred to the Colorado Guard, but he’s currently serving on active duty at the Air War College here, participating in the Center for Strategy and Technology’s future studies think tank known as Blue Horizons.

Vaughan credits his “Disruptive Solutions Process” for his widespread success. DSP invests small amounts of resources in many innovative ideas from the field and develops those that show success and return on investment.

An entrepreneurial leader, Vaughan created the joint-service, see-and-avoid, civil and military mid-air collision avoidance Web portal used at more than 100 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps bases. He also created the online segment of Air Force and joint-service Maintenance Resource Management, which is credited with a 75 percent reduction in Class A accidents due to maintenance. A Class A accident involves loss of life or more than $1 million in damage.

Vaughan also leveraged the Air Force’s existing bird aircraft strike hazard capabilities into an interagency avian flu tracking and predicting model. He built an unprecedented interdepartmental team, including experts from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Department of Agriculture, National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration, Centers for Disease Control, Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and others. The result is the dBird.us portal, scheduled for integration into existing pandemic prediction programs.

All combined, Vaughan's Air National Guard programs are credited with saving millions of taxpayer dollars, and at least several lives.

Last month, the Defense Safety Oversight Council approved funding to apply an Air National Guard fatigue mitigation program called FlyAwake throughout the Defense Department. The program is another spin-off of Vaughan’s DSP process, which originated at the 201st Airlift Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard. This marks the eighth time since 2005 that the DSOC has supported an Air National Guard safety initiative.

Joseph Angello, executive secretary of the DSOC, said the Guard programs continue to receive his support because Vaughan’s team reliably delivers.

Vaughan’s DSP appears simple in its approach, but it achieves remarkable results.

“To tighten our [observe, orient, decide and act] loop, we’ve adopted a lean, asymmetric acquisition approach – Contracting 2.0, if you will – pursuing many small solutions from small firms in parallel, often capitalizing on existing commercial technologies,” he said. “And by driving the funding requirements and time-to-market for all solutions toward zero, our failures are just as valuable as our successes. If even only one succeeds, then the whole portfolio is productive for the taxpayer.”

Vaughan said his team evaluates the best ideas against existing military requirements and then executes the solution. That means working closely with contracting officers, finance experts, academia, the scientific community and other governmental departments to leverage existing capabilities against the new ideas efficiently and effectively.

“It may take the military many years to design, develop, fund and field a major weapons system, like an aircraft,” he said. “The acquisition process for these huge programs is mind-numbing. So any opportunity we have to deliver fast, effective capability to warfighters right now is a must-do.”

Vaughan, who in 2007 became the first Air National Guard member awarded the Air Force Chief of Staff Individual Safety Trophy, said these awards recognize the innovation, hard work and tenacity of the 106,800 men and women of the Air National Guard.

“Those dedicated warfighters, often deployed in harm's way around the globe, expect and deserve the best possible service from their National Guard Bureau,” he said. “Our role is simply to bring their visions to a practical reality.”

(Air Force Capt. Lynn Lee serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

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