Airman Dilbert

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The Air Force is seeking professional help in “conflict coaching.” Apparently Air University down at Maxwell Air Force Base isn’t up to the task. That’s where airmen learn air superiority (magna cum laude) and air dominance (summa cum laude).

But it seems the “conflict coaching” the service seeks has nothing to do with strafing and bombing: rather, it has to do with settling disagreements in which the Air Force finds itself, without resorting to litigation. And it wants to train 250 Air Force personnel as conflict coaches:

The AF had 3700+ disputes last year (which does not include all of the informal conflicts that did not go through a dispute system). We can infer that there could be as many as 7000 parties. With over 500 mediations (the intervention part of the coaching spectrum) a year, the Air Force likely has about 1000 disputants going through ADR [alternate dispute resolution]. There is currently no structured process offered to prepare any of these individuals to engage in any conflict management conversation.  Given the level of potential activity and our desire for our coaches to maintain their skills (perhaps by coaching at least once a quarter as we recommend with our mediators) 250 coaches would likely be able to have enough business to coach once a quarter at a minimum within the workplace context.

This is actually kind of funny, given the Air Force’s internal fumbling of procurement contracts ranging from its new aerial tanker to its bumbled effort to outfit the Afghan air force with new planes. Perhaps such snafus have been sparked by conflicts inside the service?

Hard to believe the service lacks this vital capability in-house:

While there are many outside entities that provide such services, GCD [Dispute Resolution Division – Battleland has no idea why the abbreviation doesn’t mesh with its name] views development of greater in-house capabilities in addition to mediators as crucial to meeting future Air Force needs and doing so in a cost-effective manner. At this time, the Air Force only has a cadre of mediators and lacks internal capability for any other conflict management professionals to address the broader range of the conflict management spectrum.

And what’s that reference to “doing so in a cost-effective manner”?

Well, as the performance work statement notes:

Development of internal collateral-duty Air Force coaches will save the need for outside coaches, who charge up to $4000 per day [ed.’s note: only if you pay it]. Even if the coaches are only able to better resolve their own conflicts or conflicts within their immediate offices, the investment is well worth it.

Surely a bargain at the estimated price of $149,000.

Note to self: file FOIA request with Air Force for all spending on outside conflict management professionals.