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Air Force Chief wants to take a ‘wrecking ball’ to bureaucracy

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. (US Air Force/Released)
March 13, 2023

When General C.Q. Brown took his appointment as Air Force Chief of Staff in 2020, he did so with a bold call to action and a mission to reshape the service to a more streamlined, effective force that empowers airmen. 

Brown’s methods and goals were outlined in his ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ plan, released shortly after his appointment. While delivering his keynote speech in Aurora, Colorado at the Air and Space Forces Association AFA Warfare Symposium last week, Brown remained committed to his course. 

“I’d rather be uncomfortable than lose,” Brown said,” That’s why I wrote ‘Accelerate Change or Lose.’ As Airmen, you must think differently about how we fly, fight and win. With Accelerate, Change, or Lose, you need to think about the speed, the agility, the lethality we have that are Force multipliers. You must adapt. And we cannot do this by ourselves…in order to be successful, we have to work together.” 

Brown also sees an opportunity to empower Airmen with the authority to execute decision-making in critical need situations. 

“Trained appropriately,  Airmen do not have to wait for orders from higher headquarters to make bold decisions and take advantage of fleeting opportunities, “Brown said.  

Brown’s stance also stresses a sense of openness and trust between ranks in the Air Force. According to Defense News, Brown is aware rank may be intimidating to younger Airmen. 

“Let me just talk about bureaucracy first. It’s the collaboration, it’s breaking down barriers,” Brown said, “Those of us in senior positions, sometimes our young airmen are afraid to come talk to us because of our rank and position. But we’ve got to set an example, that we want to hear all sides. Ideas don’t have ranks.” 

Brown cited experiencing frustrations with older, sometimes outdated policies as reasons to address bureaucracy in the Air Force. 

“And then sometimes we’ve got to get the right person with the policy in the room to understand how we’re impeding progress, because that policy was made five, 10, 15, 20 years ago, for a very specific purpose,” Brown said, “And the facts and assumptions have changed.”

Brown’s leadership and vision have not gone unnoticed. According to, Frank Kendall, Air Force Secretary, indicated Brown may be a contender to become Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. 

“Gen. Brown is an exceptional leader with broad strategic perspectives and a thoughtful, measured approach to any problem set,” Kendall said,” I’d hate to lose such a great partner, but there is a chance somebody who outrank me considerably might see the same attributes in C.Q.” 

The role of Chairman of Joint Chiefs is currently held by Army General Mark Milley. The end of his appointment on September 30 has lead to speculation as to who the next nominee will be.