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How (and Why) to Write a Waiver During “The Winter of Waivers”

This winter is officially “The Winter of Waivers” at Edwards AFB. All members are encouraged to identify opportunities to seek waivers to improve mission effectiveness at the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe. When done right with a focus on risk management, common sense waiving of provisions can enhance the 412 TW’s ability to support the Warfighter and makes the Air Force as a whole, a more effective force. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Giancarlo Casem)

This winter is officially “The Winter of Waivers” at Edwards AFB. All members are encouraged to identify opportunities to seek waivers to improve mission effectiveness at the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe. When done right with a focus on risk management, common sense waiving of provisions can enhance the 412 TW’s ability to support the Warfighter and makes the Air Force as a whole, a more effective force. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Giancarlo Casem)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

“Hold the phone… I thought it was the Summer of Waivers.”

Yes it was, and with all the bright ideas from you and your teammates, we adjusted quite a few requirements like No-Hat-No-Salute at the CDC, and eliminating mandatory physical copies of digital records. To keep the great ideas flowing, we welcome you to “The Winter of Waivers”.

“But why me?”

All members are encouraged to identify opportunities to seek waivers to improve mission effectiveness and quality of life at the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe. As to why YOU; it’s because you are the living, breathing architect of your process. You tackle it every day, and even if you are the new one on the team, you have the fresh eyes to see things that others can’t. We can’t see what requirements might not be value added at your level, but you can.

“Will it get shot down? How do I know anyone will even read it?”

Every waiver properly submitted will quickly(*) make it to the top for consideration.

“Wait a sec, what’s that asterisk for?”

Your Chain of Command will add their input and comments, but they must move the Waiver along within a few days. The Yes or No on every Waiver, comes directly from the TW/CC. It has to, because once approved a waiver signifies that the Commander has accepted all the potential risks created by non-compliance.

“Ok, that sounds good but I don’t have time to do that…”

Just one simple example here, but one easy Summer waiver changed a monthly review to every other month, freeing up the participants time (not to mention better using that collective $600+ in duty pay). And think of all the man hours saved preparing for half as many reviews? Honestly, how much time have we all spent wondering aloud why we do X, Y, or Z?

“Alright then, I get it and I think I know what we should waive next!”

That’s great! Because General Teichert is challenging all of us to take chances, be innovative, and find all ideas great and small. Every waiver idea will be considered. Not sure he’ll approve it? Does your idea feel a little too far out there? Then he definitely wants to see it. It could be just the ticket to eliminate unnecessary burdens across the Wing.

Now here’s what you need to know about AFI 33-360:

AFI 33-360 para 1.9 mentions three specific circumstances where we should seek a waiver; either:

1. “The cost of compliance creates unacceptable risk to a higher priority task.” (Cost of compliance with training, funds, equipment, facilities, guidance, or manpower)

2. “The expected cost of compliance outweighs the benefit.” (i.e.- Too many resources spent for too little benefit)

3. “Personnel cannot comply with the requirement due to a lack of resources.” (Resources such as training, funds, equipment, facilities, guidance, or manpower)

While these are specifically mentioned (and that second one is a winner), it’s important to remember waivers can be sought any time you find an opportunity “to enhance mission effectiveness at all levels, while preserving resources and safeguarding health and welfare.”

Still onboard?  Great! Here are the…

Simple Steps for Submitting a Waiver

1. Identify an opportunity to improve operations by simplifying or removing a requirement.

2. Identify the governing regulation and the applicable paragraphs. That’s where you’ll find the waiver level (T-0 through T-3)

3. Determine who can approve the waiver or if it’s a non-tiered waiver.

i. T-0 Waivers:  Waiver authority is outside the Air Force. This is going to be the White House, Congress, and other Federal or International agencies. Requests for these waivers must be processed through the chain of command to the Headquarter Air Force (HAF) or publication office of primary responsibility (OPR).

ii. T-1 Waivers:  Waiver authority is the MAJCOM Commander.

iii. T-2 Waivers:  Waiver authority is still the MAJCOM Commander, but can be delegated to the first General Officer in the chain of command.

iv. T-3 Waivers:  Waiver authority is the Wing Commander who can delegate no lower than the Squadron Commander or equivalent.

4. If it’s a non-tiered waiver - without a T-“0,1,2,3”, does the governing regulation explicitly define the waiver authority or impose any restrictions on waivers?

i. If the publication does not define the waiver authority or impose restrictions, then the wing commander may waive the requirement unless the publication explicitly states otherwise.

ii. In this case, an AF Form 679 will be routed to the Wing Commander, then to the OPR of the publication being waived.

5. Discuss and refine your ideas with your leadership. They will have additional insight and can help improve impact statements.

6. And of course we have a form for this. Complete AF Form 679. It’s a short and simple form.

7. Route the AF Form 679 with an accompanying electronic Staff Summary Sheet (eSSS) through your chain of command. You unit’s commander support staff will be able to assist you with the eSSS process.

8. When your unit receives the approved, modified, or rejected waiver request back, keep it on file for reference.

Also see Waiver Submission Checklist

When done right, with a focus on risk management - common sense waiving of provisions can enhance the 412 TW’s ability to support the Warfighter and makes the AF as a whole a more effective force!

Interested in the fine print?

What exactly is a Waiver?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a waiver as, “the act of intentionally relinquishing or abandoning a known right, claim, or privilege” or as “the legal instrument evidencing such an act.” For the Air Force, as defined in AFI 33-360, a waiver is a tool commander’s can use “to enhance mission effectiveness at all levels, while preserving resources and safeguarding health and welfare.”

Once approved by a commander, a waiver signifies that the approving commander has accepted the risks stemming from the approved waiver.

Waivers should be sought using an AF Form 679 and an accompanying electronic Staff Summary Sheet (eSSS). The AF Form 679 and the eSSS should be routed through normal chain of command channels that would be used for other correspondence being routed to the wing, MAJCOM, HAF, etc.

The AF From 679 is well-written, easy to understand, and includes fields to specify the following: commander seeking the waiver, the waiver authority, the governing publication, the requirement being requested to be waived, the rationale for the waiver, the time period in which the waiver is required, any applicable risk mitigation measures being taken, and the impact of disapproval.

Section II of this form allows the writer to add additional fields to document waiver coordination as it has been routed up the chain of command. For instance, if a Squadron Commander was seeking a T-3 waiver, then this section would include signature blocks for the Squadron Commander, Group Commander, and Wing Commander.

Approval, Modification, or Rejection

Once the AF Form 679 specifying the waiver request makes it to the approval authority, he or she can choose to:

1. Approve the waiver as written.

2. Modify the waiver and approve the waiver with the specified modifications.

3. Reject the waiver.

Once the approval authority has made a decision, the requesting unit will be notified. The timeline sought for the entire process from submission to approval authority decision is 30 days, but in reality the process can take longer, especially when seeking a T-0, T-1, or T-2 waiver.

Even if a waiver is approved as “permanent,” a commander can only approve a waiver for the length of the approving commander’s tour. The waiver will expire 90 calendar days after the commander’s Change of Command unless the new commander chooses to renew it. If the new commander does not renew a waiver, then the waiver is rescinded.

Actions Post Approval

If a waiver is approved, then the approved waiver becomes part of the requestor’s official records and must be filed as specified in AFMAN 33-363. Additionally, a copy of all approved waivers must be sent within 30 days to the OPR of the HHQ publication being waived to provide situational awareness and process improvement considerations. During the waiver period, the requesting commander/director is required to:

1. Implement adequate risk controls to address any risk created by the waiver.

2. If applicable, work toward compliance with the governing regulation.

3. Continuously re-evaluate risk during the waiver period and make any necessary adjustments.

4. As a minimum, keep a copy of the previous commander’s or director’s waivers on file.

Conclusion

You can have a direct impact on the Warfighter and the AF during “The Winter of Waivers” and beyond. Now and throughout your career, please seek out opportunities to find common sense waiver opportunities that will enhance you and your unit’s ability to accomplish your mission and to cement Edwards AFB as the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe.

Please submit any questions you have on the waiver process to the 412 TW Commander’s Action Group at 412TW.Workflow@us.af.mil.