The Air Force’s next big IT project looks to transform its online portal for military awards from a clunky mess into a user-friendly home for airmen’s honors.
Revamping myDecorations, or “myDecs,” is part of a broader effort to streamline the Air Force’s sprawling human resources enterprise. The project aims to ease the administrative burden of apps that troops depend on to document their professional lives and make that data accessible worldwide.
MyDecs aims to be a one-stop shop for nominating airmen for several Air Force awards, including the Air and Space Meritorious Service Medal, the Air and Space Commendation Medal, the Air and Space Achievement Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Military Volunteer Outstanding Service Medal and the Combat Readiness Medal.
The system also adds those awards into a service member’s formal military record.
But airmen say myDecs can be maddeningly confusing and glitchy.
The system can block nominators from correcting any errors once their draft is sent, and is tricky to navigate when the awardee and their nominator no longer work in the same unit. Airmen also have trouble getting the app to save changes in drafts and struggle to withdraw submitted requests, among other problems.
“I submitted a dec for my troop, and the flight kicked it back for corrections,” Reddit user mindyourownbusiness3 wrote in July. “The problem is, I can’t edit it. I make the corrections, click submit, and none of the corrections are saved. I tried to withdraw it to resubmit it with the corrections, but it’s been sitting in withdraw limbo for 2 weeks.”
“I’d call it a piece of s***, but manure has value,” they said of myDecs.
Air Force spokesperson Master Sgt. Deana Heitzman said relief is coming.
“We’ve identified how we can improve routing in the myDecs application to allow the user to select who they want to send the decoration to, from initiation to approval,” she said. “Users can expect the flexibility they have today in the myEval routing experience, including editability by any user in the nomination and approval process up until the point of the approval signature.”
The Air Force plans to offer a basic version of the software before gradually tacking on new features. The interface will be handled by Salesforce, the same business IT contractor that hosts the Air Force’s myEval performance review system.
Heitzman declined to say when airmen could expect to see the new app.
“MyDecs is a priority and will be rolled out as soon as comprehensive testing, the manual publishing and training efforts are complete,” Heitzman said. “We will use user feedback to explore and evaluate additional capabilities.”
Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller, the Air Force’s personnel chief, told Air Force Times in a recent interview that the service will use what it learned from myEval’s rocky rollout to make the myDecs overhaul faster and smoother.
Last year, the service halted its implementation of myEval for months as technical difficulties stymied airmen’s efforts to submit the annual job reviews that are a key factor in prospective promotions.
“We were doing it all from … the programmers’ perspective, which is not helpful,” Miller said of initial attempts to design myEval. “If we sequestered the right people, and got customer input … it was a huge success.”
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.