By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIRFORCE BASE, Colo. — So, you think you’re full of big ideas. Submit your big idea to the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program and you might just get a big payout.
“There’s a process in place that actually pays people money to come up with better ways to do things,” said Jennifer Butcher, 21st Space Wing IDEA program manager.
The IDEA program awards recipients between $200 and $10,000, depending on how much money the idea is projected to save the government, Butcher said. Any military member or Department of Defense employee is eligible for a reward through the IDEA program.
“There are a lot of ideas that could be generated that are very little effort at all and they’d get an automatic $200 for it,” Butcher said. “The ones that require a little more calculation and thought are how you get the maximum award amount.”
The IDEA program is the only Air Force program that puts money into a person’s pocket because it saves the government money in the long run.
Ideas are submitted to the program online but Butcher warns to do some homework before turning an idea in. First, check Air Force Instruction 38-401. “They can refer to that to determine what types of ideas are eligible and what’s not. It lays it out,” she said.
It’s also important to know that the IDEA program may not be the first place to go. “A lot of processes require the functional community to first approve it before you submit it in the IDEA program,” Butcher said. “If that gets approved then they can submit that paperwork into the IDEA program.”
A lot of ideas have to go through the civil engineering or communication squadrons first, otherwise they will be ineligible.
Butcher said she has five or six IDEA winners each quarter though, until recently, they had all been $200 recipients.
Master Sgt. Jason Cochran, Air Force Space Command air transportation manager, was awarded a $10,000 check for his idea on behalf of Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander.
Cochran saw something as simple as changing a billing address that saves nearly 25 percent every time a space craft is shipped to Cape Canaveral, Fla. “There’s no change in service, but at the end of the day, we’re overpaying for something for no reason,” he said.
Cochran’s idea is estimated to save nearly $3 million in the first year. He said sometimes someone from the outside just needs to step in and take a look at how processes are done. “There’re probably several dozen instances DOD wide where this is probably happening, as well,” he said.
With the focus Crawford is placing on innovation and efficiency, the IDEA program is a great way for anyone to get involved. “His goals tie right into the IDEA program. It helps the program; it helps the person because they’re actually getting paid,” Butcher said.
There is no limit to the number of times a person can submit an idea or receive a payout, she said. “I have a few people like that, who consistently submit ideas and get $200.”
The IDEA program is an Air Force wide incentive.
“Every manpower office has an IDEA program manager, and every base has a manpower office,” Butcher said.
For more information about the IDEA program, call 556-8475.